LEWISBURG – Foxfire Realty is one of the first regional real estate companies to experiment with “drone” technology with the launch this month of “Chopper Foxfire.”
The cutting edge, four-propeller, remote control aerial camera eventually will become a significant component of Foxfire’s marketing platforms.
Paul Grist, associate broker with Foxfire Realty based in Lewisburg and pilot Jonathan Collins took the company’s new drone, “Chopper Foxfire,” on its maiden flight at the West Virginia Fairgrounds.
“It’s exciting to bring this new marketing technology on board,” said Grist. “Until the Federal Aviation Administration releases its commercial guidelines, we will use Chopper Foxfire experimentally and outside our commercial marketing. We’ll experiment, learn the equipment’s limitations and possibilities and work closely with the National Association of Realtors to create appropriate commercial rules.”
As part of Foxfire Realty’s community outreach, the company will donate the flying time and videography for upcoming community festivals and sporting events.
“Offering a bird’s eye view to a local event is just one of the ways we will be able to use our new Chopper Firefox as we experiment with commercial marketing,” said Grist. “Our first priorities include safety, privacy, security and working within state and federal guidelines.”
Drone technology is often associated with national security, the military and recreational devices. Its commercial applications, such as providing panoramic real estate photography and videos, are among the most asked for marketing tools among Realtors and their clients.
However, state and federal regulatory agencies haven’t caught up with the commercial market demands. Existing regulations ban the commercial use of drones, except on a limited, case-by-case basis.
The Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in February 2013, allows the commercial use of drones by real estate professionals.
The act requires the FAA to have regulations in place for commercial use by Sept. 30, 2015. Until the regulations are in place, the National Association of Realtors advises real estate professionals to proceed cautiously, which Grist and Foxfire Realty have made clear they intend to do.
Nevertheless, the new drone technology promises excellent marketing opportunities for Firefox Realty’s real estate clients and Firefox is eager to take its marketing beyond the experimental stages.
According to Grist, the drone will greatly enhance Foxfire’s ability to market its clients farms and country estates as well as giving a bird’s eye view of their residential homes.
The drone is equipped with a hi-resolution GoPro camera capable of taking both HD video and still photos. It flies at a height of up to 200 feet and will safely travel up to one mile.
“Whatever the camera is seeing from the air,” said pilot Collins, “we view in real time on our on-ground tablet.”
The drone can hover in place, pan 360 degrees, zoom front, back, sideways, up and down. Equipped with a global positioning system, the drone will automatically return to home if the pilot loses sight of it.