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The good news and the bad news about drones

By February 5, 2015 One Comment

The good news: Federal regulators have granted eight more exemptions to commercial drone operators, bringing the total number of requests granted to 24.

The bad news: The Federal Aviation Administration continues to work its way through a backlog of 342 requests for exemptions from companies and individuals, and it could be 2017 before the FAA finalizes rules that would allow commercial drones to be “integrated” into U.S. airspace, rather than “accommodated” on a case-by-case basis.

The FAA said the exemptions granted this week, to companies involved in aerial surveys and film and television production, “do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness because they do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security.”

Real estate brokers and agents are enthusiastic about the potential for small drones to dramatically lower the cost of producing aerial imagery of homes they are marketing.

But last summer, the FAA warned real estate agents who fly their own drones to take pictures or videos of listings that they are not engaged in a “hobby or recreation,” meaning that regulators could attempt to take enforcement actions against them.

Until the FAA finalizes rules for commercial drone operators, it maintains that real estate agents and other for-profit drone operators must petition for exemptions under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

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The first Realtor to obtain such an exemption, Douglas Trudeau, of Tucson, Arizona-based Tierra Antigua Realty, says it took the FAA 177 days to approve his petition.

“The process for getting the FAA to give me an authorization has been very frustrating at times,” Trudeau told “A lot of patience, a lot of waiting. But I understand my situation is different than any other — I’m the only Realtor out of 1.1 million in the United States approved for this.”

Trudeau told Inman in January that other real estate agents have reached out to him through Facebook and email for advice on how to get an exemption.

“They ask me how to do aerial photography,” Trudeau said. “I send them to websites [with details on the FAA certification process] and tell them ‘Go for it.’ “

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