June 27--Real estate drones were grounded before most could get off the ground.
The Federal Aviation Administration warned agents who fly drones to get photos or video of property listings -- uncommon in Oklahoma City -- that they could be fined if not certified as commercial operators by the FAA.
Some drone-flying agents were claiming to be hobbyists -- and so not subject to regulation -- since they were not charging for the service, according to real estate news service Inman News.
Further, "Companies that provide drone photography or video for real estate brokers and agents will sometimes say they are charging for photo or video editing, not drone flights," Inman reported.
However, the FAA on Monday pointed specifically to the use of drones in real estate marketing as an example of types of flights not considered hobby or recreation use: "A Realtor using a model aircraft to photograph a property that he is trying to sell and using the photos in the property's real estate listing, (or) a person photographing a property or event and selling the photos to someone else."
Other examples were "delivering packages to people for a fee," "determining whether crops need to be watered that are grown as part of commercial farming operation," and "receiving money for demonstrating acrobatics with a model aircraft."
It's "over-regulation," said Nels Petersen, president of the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors and owner of RE/MAX Preferred Properties.
Petersen, who retired as a captain in the U.S. Navy, said it was hard for him, "as a former naval aviator with 2,500 (flight) hours," to see the concern over such low-flying craft.
He said he didn't know of many Realtors using drones, but that it comes up in RE/MAX circles because of the corporate symbol: the high-flying red, white and blue RE/MAX balloon.
GiGi Faulkner, broker-owner of RE/MAX First, said agents in that office haven't personally adopted the drone technology, although one might hire an aerial photographer for an unusually situated property.
That's what caused former Chesapeake Energy executive Tom Price to use a video production company, Sleeper Productions in Dallas, to help market his upscale home in Arcadia:
The 7,600-square-foot home, listed for $3.275 million with agent Lark Dale, of Paradigm AdvantEdge Real Estate, is so secluded it can't been seen from the street.
Owner Gary Sleeper said the drone video he used was shot by a team member using his own equipment. He said he would check into the FAA notice. He said it made sense to him that the FAA would step in to regulate the technology, which is being quickly adopted for commercial use.
Others have sent up drones for video of buildings and land: Keller Williams Realty agents in Yukon, an architect in Oklahoma City, a farmer near Enid.
First in OKC to use it
Commercial realty firm Price Edwards & Co. made a splash a year ago by being the first in Oklahoma City to use drone video to help market commercial property. It grounded the device after concerns were raised over the FAA's lack of clear guidance.
The FAA said Monday that it is soliciting comments on its notice and that it might modify its interpretation based on what it hears.
The sooner the regulations are settled, the better, said Phil Jackson, chief information officer for Price Edwards.
"We want to do our best to comply with the agency that is going to regulate them. It can be a very helpful tool to establish a sense of place. But we want to see the rules apply equally to all people, 'hobbyist' and business uses, and more clarity would be welcome," Jackson said.
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