March 10th, 2014
Because of the NTSB judge’s ruling on March 6, it sounds like there are a lot of real estate photographers thinking more seriously about purchasing one of these or if they already have a RCMA they are thinking about moving forward with commercial use of it. I think the DJI Phantom 2 should be this months choice for gear of the month.
Many commenters have pointed out the DJI Phantom 2 is not the top of the line RCMA for real estate photography. Yea, but it’s probably the most popular because it’s out of the box ready and easy to fly and has a gimbal mount for the GoPro H3 and it’s well under $1,000. You still need a GoPro H3, which is another $400. Plus there’s a bunch of great tutorials and info on the net about how to use this particular gear, such as Russell Preston Brown’s Take flight series. Russell Brown tells you everything you need to know to fly the DJI Phantom and process the results.
While things this look better this week for using RCMA commercially than it has before this ruling I’d like to point out a couple of cautions:
- The FAA has appealed the ruling to the full NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) which means the ruling is technically “stayed” or on hold until the NTSB rules. But, as Peter Sachs points out, “it will lose in the same manner as it did in the ALJ’s decision. FAA’s stance defies logic.” However, it is remotely possible that the NTSB could make some emergency decree designed to save us all from the perils of RCMA. In which case you couldn’t use your new Phantom. But as Chuck Spaulding commented on another post today, the FAA cares more about 777’s disappearing over the US than people shooting video of houses with RCMA.
- When laws are created to regulate commercial RCMA (perhaps as long as 1 or 2 years) there may be a lot of hoops to jump through to become approved to fly commercial RCMA. Or your state could come up with laws restricting RCMA use. Either of these could make your RCMA real estate business more difficult.
In the mean time, if you fly RCMA, be cautious and fly safe. Don’t give the FAA more reasons to make the upcoming regulations strict.
Update March 12: Note that Dan Milstein below in comments reports that he has been unable to find insurance that reasonably covers against RMCA risks. He says, “Checking out the above mentioned insurance, it appears to be completely worthless. The policy requires that operators “agree to operate all UAV equipment within the guidelines of the RCAPA organization and the FAA.” Note that it does not say “Regulations.” Worse, RCAPA dictates that operators must avoid flying over persons or property…. I welcome the introduction of real insurance for commercial operators. I just don’t see it yet.”