Camera mounted "drones" used to market commercial real estate in Tampa

Remote controlled copters getting cheaper

TAMPA - Don't call 'em drones!  Those who fly miniature helicopters with cameras attached like to call them unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAV's. Whatever you call them, they're starting to fill the skies from coast to coast.

Maybe it was inevitable that the new generation of remote controlled mini helicopters would be paired with weather proof, go-anywhere "Gopro" cameras. And while we're dazzled by the scenic images of adventure, the technology can even make an empty warehouse on Hillsborough look pretty cool.

Photographer Michael Blitch is taking aerial video of the warehouse, which is available for lease. His DJ1 Phantom Quadcopter may be putting a lot of real helicopter pilots out of work.

"You can get one from Amazon for less than $500 to your door in two days -- add some batteries and a transmitter and start flying it," Blitch said.

Taking the controls with two simple joysticks, it's obvious these aircrafts are huge improvement over the flimsy Christmas present of my youth that was inevitably in pieces by New Year's Day. The remote response is quick and steady.

And while most of these quadcopters are sold to hobbyists, commercial real estate broker Julia Silva Rettig who has the listing on the Tampa warehouse said the video that features aerials of nearby roads gives her an edge.

"If I have a user out in Washington who's looking for space in Tampa, I can now send this video as opposed to a flier that may not tell them the whole story," said Rettig.

But the question of whether it's even legal to fly these unmanned craft is up in the air. People are taking them to places only licensed pilots were able to go, which has spooked the Federal Aviation Administration. FAA  restrictions are being challenged in the courts, so it's an unsettle issue.

"Unfortunately many people don't take the time to learn about the safe operation of them. That's why many in the community are trying to take the time to educate others and try to operate as safely as possible so there's not significant legislation," said Blitch.
 
So while the rules for pros and hobbyists both are unclear at this point, keep in mind remote controlled planes are potentially dangerous to real planes, road traffic and people on the ground, so you assume some personal liability when you send one up.

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