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Drones in Real Estate – When Technology Surpasses Policy

July 22, 2014

Author: Tom Flanagan, Vice President of Technology, Alain Pinel Realtors
This article ran in the July 11th, 2014 Palo Alto Daily News publication Premier Homes, pg 10.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with Camera
When looking at some of the latest real estate tech trends, one that has the potential to have a significant impact in the industry is the use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Photographers typically use these small remote controlled drones with a camera to take stills and video of a property, and their use is becoming increasingly commonplace in the real estate industry.
The use of drones for real estate purposes gives consumers, buyers in particular, a unique view into, or over, a listing. They are able to tell a story about a property that wouldn’t otherwise be achieved with traditional photography, and are wonderful for displaying waterfront properties and listings with a lot of acreage. From their vantage point of about 100 feet above a property, they are able to capture images that an airplane or helicopter would not, offering a truly unique perspective.
However, as an emerging technology, there is a tremendous amount of inaccurate information and confusion regarding their usage. Grey area and misinformation surrounding the legal use of drones abounds, and they have become a polarizing topic that often conjures images of military use or spying.
In reality though, UAVs and drones have been used with good intentions, primarily by hobbyists, for decades. But when it comes to commercial use, drones are an example of technology surpassing policy. Technology is moving at such a fast clip, it is difficult for government bodies to introduce legislation around them.
To date, there has only been one UAV pilot fined by the FAA. While the FAA did lose that case, they appealed it, which negated the win for the pilot. Additionally, a New York real estate brokerage was just subpoenaed by the FAA for drone use. Legislation surrounding use remains nebulous though, and Congress has issued a deadline to the FAA, requiring the agency to issue regulations and guidelines by 2015.
While government issues and questions about privacy remain, this medium offers tremendous value to real estate consumers, offering a sneak peek into a property that wouldn’t otherwise be available. There are safety concerns as well, and ensuring each drone operator is licensed after being properly trained, as with a motor vehicle, would be a responsible course of action. Finding this fine balance between legislation and innovation though will definitely pay off for the real estate consumer in the long run.


About Author:

Tom Flanagan is Vice President of Technology at Alain Pinel Realtors and is responsible for overall technology strategy and implementation throughout the company. With over a decade of experience in the technology industry, he brings a wide range of knowledge in technology, online platforms and new media, with an emphasis on design and usability. Tom is also a syndicated columnist for Inman News, the leading source of independent real estate news and information.

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