Personal drones legal for now, no rules to abide by - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Personal drones legal for now, no rules to abide by

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

When you think of drones, you probably think of the controversial military technology. Well, think again.

“Mine can go up to 1800 to 2000 feet away, there are some drones out there, commercial drones that can go five miles,” said Ryan Servatius of Shores Real Estate in South Haven, Michigan.

Servatius is a top seller in the picturesque beach town of South Haven, about two hours outside Chicago. In the competitive world of real estate, he's always looking for an edge. This year, he has been using cutting edge technology of a private drone to showcase his listings.

“Ground level is fine. But when you get up and you see the surrounding area around you, that really will showcase that home, and that area,” said Servatius.

However, is it legal?

“The FAA isn't threatening fines or so forth, it's just advising business owners that right now their use isn't authorized,” said Michael Holloway of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.

It may be not authorized, but it’s not prohibited either. Legal experts call it a gray area where technology has outpaced the law. Congress has ordered, though, the FAA to make some rules by next year.

“If it starts to become a free-for-all, we could see the FAA start to take more aggressive enforcement actions,” Holloway added.

In the meantime, Amazon wants to use them for deliveries, energy companies to monitor far off pipelines, and real estate is just one use for drones with cameras on board.

FOX 32 News asked Servatius about his first time flying his drone, to which he responded, “First tries without a satellite link was a crash & burn! Ha -- go up real quick and come down.”

YouTube has many examples of proof of private drones going off the flight plan. Some drones even had near-misses with aircrafts, but so far, no major damage or injuries.

Servatius said he's past the learning curve now, running his drone with a satellite link on his iPhone that prevents collisions.

“It locks into its position, knows where it's at, if it gets in trouble, it'll actually fly back to where it took off and land safely,” added Servatius.

Safety is not the only question raised by the growing use of private drones.

“To me, it's an invasion of privacy,” said South Haven homeowner Jim Wetlaufer.

Wetlaufer doesn't like what he's seen in the realtor's video online, which is his own house

“Can they come down and fly right against my windows and peek in? See what I’m watching on TV? We need rules,” added Wetlaufer.

The FAA’s mission has always been safety, so policing privacy is up in the air. Eventually, there will likely be training, licensing and rules on altitude.

“Right now its be as cautious as you can, use some common sense, don't do anything you don't want someone doing to you,” said Servatius.

Business aside, the aircraft is downright fun. Some in the tech industry predict we'll have tens of thousands of them in the air in the next few decades.

Anyone who wants a drone right now can buy it and fly it. Servatius’ drone cost about $1500 online.

And in case you're wondering how soon until the media is using drones to cover the news, don't hold your breath. TV stations are waiting for the FAA to say ok, but not likely anytime soon, if ever.

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