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Drones being used more often for commercial photos, video
Flying cameras come in handy for real estate companies
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A view of Lake Lanier and environs shot from a commercial drone. Gainesville-based Envision Virtual Tours has been offering commercial aerial drone photography and video for about a year now helping create images of real estate property. - photo by Stuart Wade

The use of drones for commercial video and photos is on the rise, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Local real estate agents are taking advantage of this trend and getting photo and video footage of their listings like never before.

“When you take a front picture of a house at ground level, you just don’t see the depth,” said Stuart Wade, CEO of Envision Virtual Tours Inc.

Drones — unmanned aircraft flown by a pilot using a ground control system — are being used to add that depth.

Gainesville-based Envision Virtual Tours has been offering commercial aerial drone photography and video for about a year now, after receiving its required Section 333 waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration last June.

“It’s changing a lot of stuff, especially lake property,” Wade said of aerial drone photography.

Regionally, drones have been helpful to show off lake properties or beautiful decks on the front of homes in the mountains that would otherwise be very difficult to photograph.

Envision Virtual Tours provides aerial video and photos for real estate listings, lake events and hype videos for events, and the company recently signed a contract with a golf course to shoot footage of the course and holes.

“It adds so much to listings,” Wade said.

Companies like Envision are hired by real estate agents to capture breathtaking images of their listings in hopes of attracting a buyer and weeding out people who are perhaps looking for something a little different.

Envision applied for its Section 333 waiver from the FAA in April 2015 before receiving it last June. Among rules waiver-holders must abide by are not flying in prohibited airspace, downloading required software from the FAA and uploading data to an internet-based data storage service — so that the FAA can monitor drone flights if it so chooses.

“Once it came on board, everybody just seemed to like it,” Wade said of the company’s ability to now shoot footage by drone.

A Section 333 waiver allows the use of a drone to perform commercial operations in low-risk, controlled environments. According to the FAA, the main requirements to operate a drone for a business are the Section 333 waiver, certificate of waiver or authorization, an aircraft registered with the FAA and a pilot with an FAA airman certificate.

Wade estimates his company does five to eight different sites a day, usually for real estate listings or vacation rentals. Once on-site it takes between 45 minutes and an hour and 15 minutes to capture the images of the property. Envision then edits the images and delivers a complete product to the client.

He said his company sees more of a surge in drone photo and video requests during the summer when landscaping is at its peak.

Envision, which serves a 100-mile radius around Gainesville, was in the business of real estate photography before getting its waiver to use a drone. In the last 15 years, Wade said the company has probably taken photos or videos of more than 100,000 properties.

Brent Hoffman, commercial real estate agent at Berkshire Hathaway Georgia Properties, has been using drones in real estate for years.

“Technology is constantly changing, and so is the technology used to market and sell homes,” Hoffman said.

Engaging and enticing buyers beyond static advertisements is necessary, he said.

Drone footage can save time for all parties involved by helping a potential buyer see more about the property without actually having to visit it. Once potential buyers have seen such clear footage, they can get a feel for whether it’s something they want to continue pursuing.

“The way it helps me, if I have aerial drone footage of a 50-acre piece of property, then the prospective purchaser can really see how the property lays, where the creeks are, what percentage is wooded versus pasture,” Hoffman said.

Recently Hoffman worked with Envision Virtual Tours Inc. on a listing that involved flying the drone through the building in addition to the exterior.

Hoffman said the building — which is an events center — was such an interesting building they thought flying the drone through it would be useful to show its features.

“It helps me to sell more property if you’re on the cutting edge,” Hoffman said. “You can say so much more in a drone video that you can’t just put into words.”

In the past, aerial shots would require a pilot with a camera. Drones are quicker, faster and produce better photography, Hoffman said.

Hoffman doesn’t use drone footage on all of his listings, but tries to use them with the more expensive, harder-to-walk, dynamic properties.

“I had been familiar with drones being used for real estate,” he said. “But when I saw it I said, ‘Hey, I gotta have this.’”

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