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Santa Fe real estate agent's marketing tactic shows more drones being used commercially

The remote controlled DJI Phantom drone with an attached GoPro 3 camera used by Brian Tercero of Keller Williams Realty used to create a high definition video of a property is seen in Santa Fe, N.M. on April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/The Santa Fe New Mexican, Clyde Mueller)

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The remote controlled DJI Phantom drone with an attached GoPro 3 camera used by Brian Tercero of Keller Williams Realty used to create a high definition video of a property is seen in Santa Fe, N.M. on April 18, 2014. (AP Photo/The Santa Fe New Mexican, Clyde Mueller)

SANTA FE, N.M. - A Santa Fe real estate agent is taking marketing homes to new heights, along with new complications in federal aviation laws.

Agent Brian Tercero has been using a drone to help advertise homes on the market, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican (http://bit.ly/1fiIj9U). Video footage from a drone can better convey the appeal of a property than standard marketing photos of trees, he said.

"Flying over (the property) adds a whole other dimension," Tercero said. "It's powerful. And it was instrumental in getting the buyer to bite."

The Federal Aviation Administration has banned the use of drones for commercial purposes except in the cases of those with special permission from the agency. But a federal judge recently ruled that drones for commercial use don't fall under FAA regulations.

In March, a judge with the National Transportation Safety Board dismissed a $10,000 fine for a businessman who used a glider to take aerial photos for a University of Virginia Medical Center ad. The judge said the drone was not an aircraft as defined by the FAA's own regulations.

The FAA is appealing the decision as it works on new regulations to cover drones.

Congress recently requested that the FAA devise a plan to safely integrate unmanned aircraft by September 2015.

Tercero said he should be able to use the drone as a real estate agent if the homeowner gives consent. So far, he said, the DJI Phantom, which is 18 inches in diameter, has been used to show undeveloped land in northern New Mexico and for more high-end listings.

"This just makes so much sense for out-of-state and out-of-country clients," Tercero said.

But what has become the latest trend in the real estate industry has privacy advocates concerned. Peter Simonson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico, said the public doesn't get the same protections against invasions of privacy when private entities use drones.

"A drone that hovers over a municipal area with an extremely high-resolution camera captures video of everything that transpires over a long period of time," Simonson said. "That kind of data can discern people's movements, what meetings they're attending, who is important in their life and why."

Hal Wingo, a client of Tercero's who has been trying to sell his home for the past six months, said they are being respectful of neighbours' privacy.

"We're not going to home in on any other property. If someone felt you were looking down on their house, they might not like that," Wingo said.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

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