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Published On: Sun, Mar 8th, 2015

Drone use for real estate purposes discussed by CCIM’s Caleb McDow

Ben Crosby, CCIM, recognized that using drones, or small unmanned aerial systems (UAS), would be an inexpensive way to capture aerial video and photos for the thousands of acres of agricultural land that are the backbone of his firm’s commercial real estate business. But he thought the process to gain a Federal Aviation Administration exemption was too onerous. However, when Doug Trudeau won an FAA exemption for using UAS in January, Crosby, president at Crosby & Associates in Winter Haven, Fla., realized he could too.

Flying "learning" robot photo/screenshot YouTube

Flying “learning” robot photo/screenshot YouTube

Using several applications that received exemptions as models, sales associate Caleb McDow took the initiative and applied for a Section 333 exemption to the FAA rules, which prohibits businesses from using UAS for commercial purposes. On July 28 — only 87 days after he applied — McDow’s application for the exemption to use UAS was approved. To put that timeframe into perspective, Trudeau’s application took almost twice as long, or 160 days, to gain FAA exemption approval.

“We’ll use the UAS for 80 to 90 percent of our listings,” says McDow, also a pilot and agricultural land specialist. “I used the UAS this morning to capture aerial video and still photos of a farm that we’re listing.”

Amazon shocked the business world when they announced plan to deliver via Octocopter photography Image/Video Screen Shot

Amazon shocked the business world when they announced plan to deliver via Octocopter photography
Image/Video Screen Shot

Two big advantages of UAS are that they can fly low and hover like a helicopter to get the photos and video, and they are much less expensive to fly than airplanes.

“UAS allow us to get the whole picture of a 3,000 to 4,000 acre tract of land in two- or three-minute video and run low shots of the property,” says Crosby. “There are restrictions on how low you can fly a manned aircraft, and airplanes also have to circle and cannot hover. If you want someone to sit in their home and see a large tract of land, the drone gives them a video that’s like sitting on a tractor and traveling through the property.”

McDow and another experienced pilot will fly the drones. Safety is the biggest issue, so they don’t come into conflict with manned planes. Using experienced pilots who understand altitudes and air space is critical.

McDow expects to fly the drones weekly for the firm’s property listings. “I’d much rather be flying an airplane,” says the former U.S. Navy pilot. “But flying the UAS is still enjoyable. I focus on getting just the right video shots and figuring out the angles that gets the buyer most excited about the property.”

Read more about the FAA rules for drone use in Commercial Investment Real Estate, the Magazine of the CCIM Institute.

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