Drones News Roundup

Drones are taking to the skies more than ever, and their use for what may be deemed commercial purposes, even if done only by private individuals, have been attracting attention from the authorities and concerned citizens. Using drones for real estate selling, taking disaster footage and the like can no longer be contained, it seems.
Here are some of the headlines the past week that make up this news roundup.

Housing Market Soars: New Mexico Real Estate Agent Using Drones To Sell Homes
A DJI Phantom, with an attached GoPro 3 camera, was used in taking stunning aerial photos of a real estate property in New Mexico:

Agent Brian Tercero has been using a drone to help advertise homes on the market, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. Video footage from a drone can better convey the appeal of a property than standard marketing photos of trees, he said.
“Flying over (the property) adds a whole other dimension,” Tercero said. “It’s powerful. And it was instrumental in getting the buyer to bite.”

According to the news, Tercero said that the 18” in diameter DJI Phantom has so far been used to advertise undeveloped land in northern New Mexico and for more high-end listings. This, however, has stirred concerns about privacy. Peter Simonson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico, said the public doesn’t get the same protections against invasions of privacy when private entities use drones.
“A drone that hovers over a municipal area with an extremely high-resolution camera captures video of everything that transpires over a long period of time,” Simonson said. “That kind of data can discern people’s movements, what meetings they’re attending, who is important in their life and why.” Read more from the article here

Judging from photos taken by drones of real estate properties, aerial shots are indeed more captivating because of the unique perspectives these photos lend to the properties. However, there should be clear official guidelines in the use of drones for real estate marketing so as to alleviate fears of privacy infringement.

FAA Looking Into Use of Drones in Journalist’s Tornado Coverage
Another story of a drone whose use, with good intention, was being questioned by the FAA.

The regulator of America’s airways is looking into the use of aerial drones by journalists in Arkansas to survey tornado damage, an FAA spokesperson confirmed to Mashable. The story, as first reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is the latest move by the FAA as it attempts to regulate unmanned aerial systems, which may or may not fall under its jurisdiction.
Brian Emfinger, a stormchaser and photojournalist for KATV, the ABC affiliate in Little Rock, Arkansas, tweeted out footage that he claimed to have shot from a drone just after a tornado ripped through the town of Mayflower.  Read the article here

Without clear FAA regulations on the use of drones, especially for commercial uses, incidents like this will surely run afoul with authorities. Obviously, using drones in disasters is potentially beneficial, but regulatory issues on safety and privacy need to be addressed with clear guidelines from the FAA.

A Drone’s Eye View of the Latest Oil Train Explosion

It was the first oil train derailment in the state in 43 years—and it set the river ablaze as tens of thousands of gallons leaked out from the tankers. Sam Scott of East Coast Drones was on the scene with a quadcopter to get an aerial perspective of the disaster, the article reports. Drones used for journalism and disaster response have been hovering in a grey area, as the FAA argues that organized operations can’t use them. Read more here

The FAA can no longer escape the reality of drones, and the sooner it comes up with its proposed guidelines, the better it will be for all concerned including the wary public.

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