Lewis Realty Associates, Inc. Files a Petition for Exemption to FAA for Use of “Drone” in Real Estate


Over the past three years, Chris Rackley, President of Lewis Realty Associates, Inc, began searching for a viable platform for aerial photography that did not involve a traditional aircraft to hopefully one day use in the real estate business at Topsail Island, NC. At that time, the technology was barely there and it took several attempts of different UAVs and setups to find a solution that was safe, viable and produced consistent results. Chris stated, “We I begun flying around the island as a hobby I was the only person with this type of aircraft. It as changed dramatically over the last three years or so with several people in the area flying.”

“Drones” are the haphazard name the public recognizes for odd looking quadcopters (4 blades), hexacopters (6 blades – see photo of Chris’ “drone”) and octocopters(8 blades) along with other UAS type machines. The word “drone” creates an image of a menancing missle laden machines set on destruction mode although that really is not the case. “Drones” could be used for search and rescue, real estate marketing, surveying, research, etc. They really are the wave of the future.

The “drone” in the photo is Chris’. It is a custom hexacopter with 6 12″ props, gps flight controller (flight is aided by GPS), 3 axis camera gimbal (keeps camera level and allows control of camera from the ground while in flight), video transmitter (so the pilot can see what the drone sees on a screen), retractable landing gear to give the camera a 360 degree view with no obstructions. The hexacopter also has many safety features with a return to home autonomously in the event of low battery or emergency, hover mode (requires no pilot input to hover in place), several LED beacon lights for visibility and even a gps enabled flight restriction (prevents flying too close to an airport).

Chris further added, “I was held back from actually using the technology in our business by a FAA policy that prohibited commercial use of RC aircraft. Although some people were able to fly below the radar of the FAA it just never seemed to be a risk I was interested in taking.”

The use of “drones” or UAVs for any commercial use are not permitted by the FAA of the United States as the technology trend surpassed the current regulations. However, the FAA has begun moving forward with petition’s for exemption under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization & Reform Act of 2012. Companies like Amazon, Google and others in the oil industry have already file for exemptions.

Early in January 2015 a Realtor in Arizona, Doug Trudeau, was granted an exemption to fly his small drone to use in promoting the community and real estate listings. This was huge news because he was a small business!

Chris through his company Lewis Realty Associates, Inc began investigating the petition process and what rules he would need to be exempt from. On January 26, 2015, we successfully submitted a petition to the FAA for permission to fly our 3.3 pound hexacopter in connection with the real estate business.

The FAA website advises that it could take up to six months to have a decision and it appears most likely Rackley will have to obtain a pilot’s license to meet the regulations if the petition is approved. Meanwhile Rackley can only fly for fun which is not a bad thing at all!

Lewis Realty has always strived to stay on top of technology with internet marketing, advanced office systems and hopefully in a few months will be taking to the air in Topsail Island!!