“You have to be very, very careful,” warns Tom Albrecht, an agent in Fort McMurray, Alta., who uses drones when marketing his listings. “[Using the drone] involves a lot of paperwork, there’s a lot of work to do to get the necessary exemptions.”
However, Julien Gramigna, the Montreal-based photographer in question, did not file that paperwork. Gramigna, who also co-founded photography and videography company VuDuCiel, failed to register with Transport Canada before a flight that involved taking aerial photos of a property for a real estate agent.
Canadian real estate agents wishing to use a drone for commercial purposes need to fill out a Special Flight Operation Certificate with Transport Canada. In the U.S., however, drone use is strictly prohibited – even for recreational uses.
Transport Canada says the goal of the certificate is to “ensure the safety of the public and protection of other users of the airspace during the operation of the unmanned air vehicle. Transport Canada has to be convinced that an individual can conduct their planned operation safely and is familiar enough with aviation regulations before an SFOC will be granted.”
Aside from safety concerns, Albrecht says privacy is a major concern among members of the public, and rightly so. Earlier this year, the RCMP launched an investigation after several reports claiming a drone was peeping in the windows of a Vancouver condo building.
That incident notwithstanding, Albrecht says using the drone to market a listing is incredibly valuable – regardless of the property’s perceived worth.
“We figure we can add a significant amount of value to people’s transactions,” Albrecht tells REP. “We anticipate things to sell quicker and for more. And we anticipate to be selling more volume as a team.”
Many agents once only considered aerial photography and videography for large luxury properties that cover many acres – and that come with high enough commissions to cover the cost of renting a helicopter and hiring a photographer. However, the accessibility, affordability and ease of use of drones are making the practice more common for smaller properties, too.
“We’ll be offering aerial footage to all our clients,” Albrecht says.
A Montreal man slapped with a $1,000 fine for an illegal drone flight serves as a good reminder for agents to “fly with caution” and file the appropriate paperwork before take-off.