Drones Move from the War Zone to the Real Estate Front

Small, remote-controlled drone helicopters with high-definition still and motion picture cameras could soon become the latest must-have photo accessory for real estate brokers who want aerial photography for their listings.

Technology has advanced to a degree that drones are more affordable than they once were, making aerial photography and video more accessible to listing agents.

Helicopter drones, which weigh about three pounds and travel up to 50 miles per hour, are being outfitted with professional-grade DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras to photograph homes and use sophisticated image-stabilizing systems to create smooth, high-quality video footage.

Drones prices range from $700 for a four-propeller Phantom drone helicopter, which can be outfitted with the rugged GoPro brand digital camera, up to $30,000 for an eight-propeller drone. Drones come in four, six and eight prop versions. They are powered by rechargeable batteries that provide between 6 and 15 minutes of flight time per charge, depending on the model and payload.

And flying these multi-rotor, radio-controlled aircraft is almost as thrilling as the images they can produce. The drones can sweep in over a property, circle a  home, take a 360 degree view and give a potential buyer a bird eye view that is hard to find in an MLS.

The Federal Aviation Administration is still working up the rules, it has issued a fact sheet with current guidelines on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Meanwhile, the FAA says drones that operate below 400 feet are subject to the same rules that govern model aircraft. Those essentially say the drones cannot be flown near populated areas, must stay within eyesight of the user, and cannot be used for commercial purposes, at least until the rules are finalized.

What do you think about aerial drone photography? Should real estate agents use them?

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