EDITORIAL: Drones mean business

The assessor’s office provides an aerial image of your house — and your entire neighborhood, for that matter — and displays it on the agency’s website. Other websites provide similar views. But if you’re trying to sell your house and want much closer, better aerial footage to enhance your listing, you can’t get it.

Unless Doug Trudeau is your real estate agent.

As reported Sunday by the Review-Journal’s Richard Velotta, Mr. Trudeau in January became the first real estate agent in the country to successfully navigate the Federal Aviation Administration bureaucracy and obtain a waiver that allows him to use photographs and video footage from an unmanned aerial vehicle for his listings. He has federal approval to fly his 3-pound Phantom 2 Vision+ quadcopter to take photos and videos of homes, land and commercial property his Tucson, Ariz., company is selling.

It took him six months to overcome regulations that either shouldn’t exist or should be far less restrictive. There is no good reason why only one real estate agent in the United States is allowed to use a drone.

Although drones increasingly are taking flight all over the country, the FAA still prohibits their use for commercial purposes. And the agency’s proposed commercial rules appear to be written to make it too expensive for the private sector to make use of the technology. One of those proposed rules would require operators to have pilot licenses, a regulation that defeats the purpose of developing a pilotless device.

Reuters reported this week that the FAA unveiled a new policy to speed up the approval process for waivers to allow commercial drone use, but that only 48 exemptions have been granted so far. Untold numbers of people who can benefit from the technology are using it anyway. As Mr. Velotta noted, Realtors, photographers and others are defying the ban.

There’s no stuffing this genie back into its bottle, so why continue having the ban for industries that can immediately and safely benefit from the technology? The FAA is already regulating an emerging industry to death. Limiting the growth potential of drones hurts Nevada, one of just six states authorized for the commercial testing of UAVs.

People shouldn’t have to possess Mr. Trudeau’s savvy or persistence to use a legal product. It’s time for the FAA to dramatically dial back these regulations and let commercial use of drones take off.

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