photo by Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/MCT

photo by Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/MCT

Drones have been in the news on the military front. But drones are being used at home in decidedly non-military ways. Many businesses are finding economically feasible uses for small drones. The problem these business owners face is that drones’ usage is flying directly into the Federal Aviation Administration’s domain and the FAA is not as high on drones as the drone operators are.

These small drones weigh less than 60 pounds, fly under 400 feet and typically cost less than $2,000, with some basic drones available for under $100. Opponents of unregulated drone use maintain that the drones could be dangerous, that their use is currently unlicensed and that the drones can be utilized in a way that infringes on individuals’ right to privacy. Other nations do allow drone use with required permitting. This is the case in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Japan.

At this point, the FAA does not allow the use of drones for commercial purposes. The FAA has slapped drone operators and their corporate owners with requests to cease and desist the activity as well as $10,000 fines.  An administrative law judge for the National Traffic Safety Bureau ruled in March that the fines and the ban were unenforceable, as there were no published regulations from the FAA regarding drone usage. Since that ruling, the FAA has been more lax in enforcing its ban and more drones seem to be “flying under the radar”. In the meantime, companies may apply for an exemption to the commercial ban from the FAA, which has approved several commercial drone use applications. As of today, the FAA’s inbox is filled with hundreds of requests for exemption. The entities seeking exemptions are diverse: real estate professionals, film production staff, agricultural enterprises, meteorologists and even oil rig operators.

Realtors are turning to drones, because they are safer to maneuver than helicopters, which must be hired and piloted, and the pictures are clearer. The drones are particularly popular in marketing high-end properties, whose proximity to beachfronts or multi-building estates can be depicted in a beautiful overhead shot.

Agricultural land buyers and corporate farmers have utilized drone-obtained photography to evaluate the geographic components of potential farmland. The pictures provide tangible evidence of irrigation systems, the status and health of current crops, access to major roads and water systems, and the state of large fence lines.

Construction companies have used drones locally. The sports and athletic facilities have been under construction for some time at a private school in Grosse Pointe Woods. The fields were off limits for much of the fall to faculty, students, as well as parents. To update the school on the progress of the construction and to give a preview of where the new fields would be located, the construction company provided the school with a flyover video, which the school posted on its website and sent to all of its stakeholders, including donors.