The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has demanded that a real estate agency ground its drones used to take advertising photographs of properties.
South Australian agency Toop&Toop was using unmanned aerial vehicles, or ‘drones’, fitted with cameras to take aerial photos or footage of properties. Other real estate agencies, such as Melbourne’s Marshall White, do the same.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) notified the company that they were unauthorised to operate the drones on a commercial basis, putting an end to the practice at the company. Despite reports that it is illegal for real estate agents to use drones, the practice is legal as long as the operator has approval.
Managing director Anthony Toop says the company was unaware of any legal issues when they first launched the drones.
“We ordered the first ones from the States,” says Toop.
“Our trials were fantastic – the results were so much better than we could ever have imagined.”
After some initial success with the technology, Toop&Toop started using the drone to advertise more properties, which lead to media attention.
“We did a press release and got a lot of publicity,” says Toop. He says the press attention caught the eye of a former employee who was trying to get an aerial photography qualification.
“That was the first we knew of any issues.
“We got some legal advice, and [the legal team] advised that we talk to CASA. We proactively went to them, and we said, “surely there isn’t a problem, and what’s the deal?”’
CASA told Toop that his company was not authorised to continue flying the drones, and served him with a notice to desist.
“Because we are a very high profile company, we weren’t going to play with that at all,” says Toop. “We just shut it down. But our competitors all started flying.”
According to Toop, his company won’t be reporting any competitors to CASA.
“But it’s incredibly frustrating,” he says.
Peter Gibson, corporate communications manager of CASA, explains that commercial operators must meet certain licensing requirements to use drones.
“If you’re a real estate agent and using a drone to take photographs of clients’ homes, you should either be using an approved remotely piloted aircraft operator, of which there are about 110, or you need to get an operators certificate and approval from CASA,” says Gibson.
He acknowledges that this is a lengthy process for those who wish to operate the drones themselves.
“It takes some degree of work to understand the safety standards you need to meet. You need to develop manuals and undergo training, you’ll need to submit materials for approval,” he says.
Gibson says that the process will cost several thousand dollars, but there is an alternative.
“A simple way of doing it would be to simply engage the service of an authorised operator.”
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com