First US realtor gets permission to use drones

You’d think that taking pictures from a small unmanned aircraft, often called drones, would be a cheap and nifty way of showing off the property you’re trying to sell – and you would be right, but doing it in the US could also put you on the wrong side of the law.

That’s why it made headlines this week when, on 6 January, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted a regulatory exemption for the use of a drone to a Douglas Trudeau, of Tierra Antigua Realty in Tucson, Arizona.

It made Trudeau the first realtor in America given official leave to use drones.

The exemption authorises him to fly a Phantom 2 Vision + quadcopter (pictured) "to enhance academic community awareness and augment real estate listing videos", the FAA said in a statement. 

The FAA also this week gave an exemption to a company called Advanced Aviation Solutions in Spokane, Washington to use a fixed-wing drone to do crop scouting for precision agriculture. 

Before these, the FAA had granted only 12 exemptions to 11 companies out of 214 requests so far.

Trudeau still has hoops to fly through, however.

He and Advanced Aviation must obtain a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) that ensures the airspace for their proposed operations is safe.

Also, the flying operations will require both a pilot and an observer, and the pilot must have at least an FAA Private Pilot certificate and a current medical certificate. For their part, the observer cannot let the drone out of his or her sight.

One bit of good news: Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx found that the craft in the proposed operations do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness because they pose no threat to national airspace users or national security.

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