Austin real estate agent gets FAA exemption to fly commercial drone

Pretty soon, we may be seeing more drones flying around. The legal red tape to fly them is gradually lifting.

And an Austin man is one of the few in the country who can legally fly them.

Alston Boyd with Boyd and Boyd Properties says flying his drone has become something he loves doing. And thanks to a case-by-case "Section 333 exemption" from the FAA, Boyd, a licensed pilot, can use it to get aerial video of the properties he's selling. He says he's the second real estate agent in the nation to do so.

"They get to see not just an aerial view like you get from a satellite photograph where everything's flat, you get a view that shows height and heights of trees and buildings and things like that, it's absolutely superb," Boyd said.

Last month, the FAA proposed some new rules that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to fly drones commercially. If they pass, a so-called "operator" would have to be at least 17 years old and pass an aeronautical test.

Media law attorney Alicia Calzada says these are long-awaited rules.

"In order to use a UAV for commercial purposes once these rules pass you will simply have to get an operator certificate," Calzada said.

Experts say it may take a couple of years for those rules to go into effect.

"So these rules that I've described to you also may change because they're proposed rules and an administrative agency like the FAA takes public comment and weighs it and will consider that," she said.

Boyd says he'll take his clients around a property by land first and then ask them if there's anything they would like to see by air. The clients put a pair of goggles on to see what the drone is seeing.

Boyd is one of the few in the country that can legally fly commercially right now...but with the proposed new rules, he's glad the red tape may finally be lifted a bit.

"It's really difficult to comply with the requirements right now. The new rules that they proposed and not passed yet I think are a big improvement and they are concerned with safety," he said.

There have only been 43 of these exemptions issued by the FAA...Boyd is one of them.

Under these new rules that haven't gone into effect yet, drones also wouldn't be allowed to drop things from the air, fly over people, and they must stay 5 miles away from airports.

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