Will 2015 be the year that commercial drone applications take off?
I certainly hope so.
To date, the FAA has been slow to regulate the commercial UAV industry. Sure, last year they worked with the MPAA to allow six companies to operate drones in Hollywood, but as far as other UAV applications are concerned – agriculture, real estate, land surveying, search-and-rescue, etc. – the FAA has been slow to regulate.
On January 6th, 2015, Douglas Trudeau of Tierra Antigua Realty in Tucson, Arizona became the first real estate agent who can legally use a drone for real estate aerial photography and videography by getting his FAA 333 exemption grant and COA.
Anyone who has spent time on sites like Zillow and Redfin has likely noticed an uptick in real estates photos taken from an aerial vantage point. Technically, those photos are prohibited, as the FAA still bans commercial drone use for almost all applications.
Yet Trudeau has clearance! According to the FAA, he’s authorized “to fly a Phantom 2 Vision+ quadcopter to enhance academic community awareness and augment real estate listing videos.”
Also, today, the FAA granted one more exception to their commercial use ban by letting Advanced Aviation Solutions in Spokane, Washington fly a fixed-wing eBee AG drone to monitor crops.
In these two exceptions, the FAA requires an extra observer to accompany the pilot. The pilot is also required to have an FAA Private Pilot certificate, and a current medical certificate. The drone must remain with line of sight at all times.
At the beginning of 2015, the FAA announced that it’s received a total of 214 requests for exemptions. I suspect they’ll be seeing a lot more throughout the year. Right now, only 14 exceptions have been granted for 13 different companies in the United States.