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Broker gets FAA approval to use drone
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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Across Southern Nevada, homes listed online usually have a slideshow of photos — some good-quality, some not — showing the yards, bedrooms, kitchen, garage and other areas of the house.

Real estate broker Jeff Galindo wants to spruce up such marketing pitches — with the help of a drone.

Galindo, of Simply Vegas, obtained Federal Aviation Administration approval in mid-April to use a small, unmanned aircraft system for commercial purposes.

He’s one of a growing number of people nationwide planning to fly drones for business reasons, and he appears to be the only real estate salesperson in Nevada to land FAA approval for it.

Real estate may prove especially popular for the burgeoning drone industry, with property pros planning to use the aircraft to take aerial photos and video of construction sites, homes, commercial buildings and other properties for marketing, mapping, inspections and other purposes.

Drone-captured images “can enhance the experience of buying and selling real estate,” Chris Polychron, president of the National Association of Realtors, recently said.

Galindo plans to use his Phantom 2 Vision+ quadcopter. According to his FAA application, the 2.9-pound, remote-controlled drone has a cruising speed of 15 knots, or about 17 mph; a top speed of 29 knots, or 33 mph; and a maximum flight time of 25 minutes.

It has GPS navigation, as well as features that let it automatically return home, not fly near airports and restrict its altitude, the application says.

Galindo — who also owns sales and marketing firm Real Estate Strategies with his wife, Lynn — says drones can be used to help sell homes and to capture growth patterns, construction progress and traffic counts.

“It’s not just the images; it’s data,” he said.

Many people have had privacy and safety concerns about drones, and the FAA in February proposed a slate of regulations for unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds.

Under the still-pending proposal, drone operators would have to be at least 17 years old; must always have visual line-of-sight; cannot fly the aircraft over anyone not directly involved in the operation; can only fly in daylight; cannot fly the drones more than 500 feet above ground level; and must be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.

The FAA has already given the green light to hundreds of people and companies to use drones for commercial purposes. This includes at least two in Southern Nevada: Galindo and aerial videographer ArrowData, which said in its FAA application that its drones would conduct aerial photography for news station KLAS-TV.

Still, Galindo wouldn’t be the first real estate salesperson in the valley to turn to drones.

Luxury-home brokerage Synergy Sotheby’s International Realty hires professional photographers to shoot pictures of its listings, and they’ve been using drones for about four years, co-owner Gene Northup said.

Drones typically carry small cameras, whose low-resolution pictures work fine for websites but not for printed material, he said. To get high-quality aerial photos, the brokerage sends photographers up in a crane or a helicopter.

“Sometimes a drone isn’t enough,” Northup said.