In the media and from some of our peers we hear about drones, drones, drones. Reality is they are sUAS, UAS and UAV. Small Unmanned Aerial Systems, Unmanned Aerial Systems, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are what those in the aeronautics world refer to them as. I see a lot of articles concerning UAV's with miss leading information. Some say shoot them out of the sky. I say be real not puerile. Others Chicken Little the sky is spying. Maybe paparazzi, but not for REALTORS®. Time to put the myths aside. Also time to solicit some help.
sUAS is merely a tool. To those of us who do actual video an aerial shot may take 4-12 seconds of a 2 minute video. For those who have done 5 minutes of fly-overs, b-o-r-i-n-g is an understatement. Unless along a lake, the ocean, mountainside, or 40 ranch acre in the desert no need for extended flying. sUAS are great for virtual tour with still photos and MLS photos, just a few of several photos that ground photos just can't tell the story. Not for every home, maybe more than you think. I tested mine on my home where lots are 75 feet wide with some dramatic results at no higher than 20 feet, mostly at 10-12 feet. We here of that downward angle front view photos are good. Well those shots work magic with a sUAS. Photos on 30 foot poles by a photographer take more time with fewer angles. With an sUAS you can hover at increments of 2, 4, 5 or 10 feet apart for varied perspective to see which gives the best photo. You can fly smoothly at 4 feet right up the walkway to the front door and even just inside if courageous. I prefer a slider to enter the doorway, I am not that brave. As much as I have practiced with a steady-cam with my DSLR, it is impossible to get as steady of a flow to the door as with an sUAS. Imagine flying backward from the Master Bedroom balcony down toward the ground and across the pool looking back at your listing? No need to look out into the neighbor's back yard. No need to be 400 feet in the air unless doing community videos. Even then just 200 feet can get great results. Here is over my neighborhood at sunrise at 250 feet which received raves on Facebook from my neighbors. You can see Kitt Peak National Observatory in the distance on the left.
So, sUAS can be a viable tool, especially if you are one of those REALTORS® who shoot your own photos and videos. A little imagination and you are a marketing genius who will attract those Buyers for your client. Just keep in mind safety and privacy at all times.
sUAS is what most REALTORS® will be concerned with. sUAS generally weigh less than 5 pounds are easy to transport and have limited flight time. The two most popular are the Blade 350QX and the DJI Phantom Vision or DJI Phantom 2 Vision +. There is also the Parrot and several others with limitations. Technology is fast, there will be more. Some good, some not so good. I have both the 350QX and the DJI Phantom 2 Vision +. My favorite is the later. Good subject for another report. I am also the only REALTOR® I know of within the United States who has a Section 333 petition before the FAA since July 2014. You could say intimately and directly involved with the process. I have spoken with experts at DJI, the FAA, NAR, UAVUS, and several other organization tied into UAV's. Sometimes getting tips before news breaks. Not an expert, just well informed.
On or about June 26, 2014 the FAA posted an unpopular interpretation that Commercial Use of UAS/UAV's is prohibited. The only exception was through a Section 333 exemption. At which time seven movie industry companies had Section 333 petitions before the FAA. I called the FAA Attorney immediately for how I could legally get back into the air without penalty. He advised me to read the movie company petitions and pattern my Section 333 petition after theirs. On July 12, 2014 I submitted my personal Section 333 petition for exemption and have been tracking nearly every move of the FAA since.
Concerning the NAR and the FAA. I have spoken to and emailed the Senior Regulatory Representative and UAS Expert at NAR several times. When something new comes up, there is conversation. NAR with over 1.1 million members cannot directly support the actions of an individual REALTOR® on something like this. I understand and can respect that. NAR isn't blocking, discouraging or inhibiting me either. Mutual respect for a common goal. NAR is tracking what happens with me, since it will impact on everyone in some way. Keep reading, you will have opportunity to add to the impact. So, I am not guessing or Monday Morning Quarterbacking at what is happening with the FAA concerning sUAS/UAS/UAV and the future of sUAS/UAS/UAV, I am living it daily.
sUAS and the FAA:
The FAA has taken a stance that sUAS/UAS/UAV pilots must possess an Airman Certificate, aka Pilot's license. With which a Medical Certificate is required. There were 7 movie industry exemptions granted September 25, 2014. There were an additional 5 exemptions for other industries granted on December 10, 2014. There are two Airman Certificates the FAA has insisted on for UAS operation within NAS (National Air Space). The most common Airman Certificate has been Commercial, with one or two a Private Airman Certificate requirements. Speaking to my neighbor, he paid $5,000 to get his Private Airman Certificate and went through a lot to get his Medical Certificate. His comment, the older you get the harder it is to get a Medical Certificate. So to fly a sUAS weighing 2.8 pounds 4 to 100 feet above a home owners private property with their permission I need at minimum a Private Airman Certificate. Operating in "G" airspace where no manned aircraft, not even a Police helicopter should be? I won't get into the different levels of air space; that is available on the FAA website. For now, just know that most real estate aerial video/photography will be in "G" airspace. If you are a REALTOR® with an Airman Certificate for Private or Commercial, you have a better chance than me.
The FAA also posted directive to its employees in the field back in October to watch for and become more diligent in enforcing regulations for UAV's fly commercially used. Setting fines from $500 to $1,100 for each individual violation. I see some photographers openly marketing aerial video/photography with UAV. None of whom are registered with the FAA for exemption. One here in Arizona with 25 videos. I am still waiting from NAR legal about whether the home owner can be fined through "Agency" since there is an Agency Agreement between Seller and REALTOR® that could bring liability directly to the home owner. Jury is out, still waiting on that one.
Aviation schools are geared up for pilots and manned aircraft. There are a few UAV training companies on the Internet claiming a UAV certificate. My question is, what formal organization approves and puts their rubber stamp on that certificate? Is that certificate recognized by the FAA? May mean something to that school or training company, however, everyone I have spoke to knows of "No UAV training recognized by the FAA." If there is an authentic one, please let me know. I am working with a local Aviation School to develop one specific to sUAS. So, before jumping on the Internet and plunking down $200 to $1,500 for a supposed UAV certificate, Buyer beware. There will definitely be some in the future in the US, just not today.
Notice I said in the "US" for training. That takes us north to Canada. Our neighbors to the north made a bold move in November impacting sUAS usage. I personally like what Transport Canada (Canada's equivalent to the FAA) did. It makes sense especially for REALTORS® here in the US of A. On about November 26, 2014 Transport Canada provided a simplified exemption for sUAS use in Canadian air space. For those who comply with requirements for under 2 kg (4.4 pounds), no formal request necessary. Stipulations are simple, with two sUAS categories. Those under 2 kg and those between 2 kg and 28 kg. Focusing on under 2kg the three most complicated requirements are training, proof of competency, and insurance. Then you are required to carry a copy of the exemption and proof of the rest for local Police, Peace Officers or Transport Canada Officials to check should they request. How easy is that? They even have an infograph to follow, as well as well written exemption to follow. Penalty for violating conditions of the exemption, $5,000 for individuals, and $25,000 for corporations. Simple and straight forward. Personally I like the meat the penalties add to the exemption.
As a REALTOR® in Canada you would need to...why not in the US?
- Have a sUAS,
- Acquire required UAV training,
- Demonstrate competency in operation of their specific sUAS,
- Acquire a minimum $100,000 liability insurance,
- Make a copy of the Transport Canada exemption,
- Acquire home owners written permission,
- Have copy/proof with him/her of all the above,
- Fly safely as outlined by Transport Canada
- Market the home and sell
I encourage you to read Transport Canada's solution. It makes sense and is needed here in the United State.
Make A Difference:
You as a REALTOR® can write to your Congressman & Senator who represent you to push the FAA toward adopting an exemption like Transport Canada's solution if you agree with their solution. Write to NAR if you like Transport Canada's exemption to voice your opinion. Contact your RAPAC representative, local Real State Boards and State Real Estate Boards to voice your support. Ask them to support this reasonable change. If the law requires an Airman's Certificate, like the FAA is insisting, then we need to change the law to remove that excuse and road block. There is a bureaucratic stranglehold on the future of sUAS/UAS/UAV in the United States that is impacting on our economy, not just us as REALTORS®.
Millions of dollars are being lost in our economy with every week of delay. With a concerted effort we can all get those who want to take advantage of this technology in the air "responsibly" to market for our clients in 2015. Forget 2017! Let's make an impact for 2015. Thinks about it in less than 3 days there will be thousands of sUAS taking to the air without sufficient regulation. An exemption like Transport Canada could have made US skies a little safer and opened the doors to boost our economy.