Agents refuse to drone on

Light, nimble and inexpensive drones are driving serious change among the real estate industry, but state legislation and privacy concerns are constraining their widespread professional use.

Many estate agents consider using drones for video and photography the ‘next big thing’ in the industry however the early adopters, those that push the barriers using technology, see legalities as the stalling point to further industry adoption. Legalities surrounding their use is so intricate that one agent has gone back to using his trusty stick-with-a-camera-on-it even though he has a roomful of imported drones ready to fly.

Another prefers the quality of helicopter shots, and not just because he gets a ride in a chopper with the photographer.

LJ Hooker Double Bay licensee and winner of the REB Top 100 highest average sale, Bill Malouf, said it all depends on what you are trying to do, the property you are shooting and what suits the location.  

“Drones are becoming the industry norm and used for still shots but using them is just as expensive as using a helicopter,” Mr Malouf said.

“Using them is very expensive – I have been quoted $600 for a package and its $650 to get a helicopter airborne and get the shot. My take is always use helicopters – we do property features where we fly through the heads, past the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

“When I go up with my photographer I know I am going to get the shot… I have not used one but I will probably look at getting one at some stage.”

Josh Brookes-Allen, director of ‘unmanned arial vehicle’ or drone photography business Alphaflight Aerospace said the beauty of using a drone to shoot property is the angles, intimacy and smooth shots you can get.

Mr Brookes-Allen has an aviation background gained flying fixed wing planes. He said initially there was an education process in the real estate industry around the technical skills needed and legalities surrounding using drones for commercial applications.

 “The cost to the client is similar to using a helicopter or a fixed-wing aircraft but the drawcard is the unique angles the drone can shoot,” Mr Brookes-Allen said.

“There are a few courses you can now take that will give you the knowledge to pass assessment and practical courses.

“I have an aviation background and pilot the UAV and a cameraman controls the photography independent of the drone.”

Toop&Toop agency in South Australia were arguably the first adopters of drones and UAV’s for the sole purpose of aerial photography for real estate. Unfortunately the fleet was grounded due to what was then uncharted and unlegislated technology ‘caught under old laws’.

Director Anthony Toop has three drones stashed in his boardroom and said he learned the hard way. Although the images they produced were ‘nothing short of spectacular’ legal constraints sent him back to using his trusty 30m window washing pole for house photography.

“The law is you cannot fly as an unlicensed operator and it is extremely complicated and what we have done now is outsource the capability to a licenced operator,” Mr Toop said.

“When we initially started using drones 18 months ago we had a remote control chopper with a Go Pro stuck on it and we had a lot of complaints from people intending to set up photography businesses so we got on the front foot and rang the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to tell them what we were doing and they issued us with a notice to ground the craft.

“We’ve got three almost brand-new drones sitting in the boardroom collecting dust and it is such a shame. We have now managed to get a really good outcome from a 30m telescopic window-cleaning pole which is not as sexy, but definitely legal.”

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