Eli Berger had only had his DJI Phantom 2 drone for about two weeks and was showing it off to an insurance agent in the parking lot of Las Cruces, New Mexico-based Coldwell Banker De Wetter Hovious Inc., where he’s an associate broker.
For some reason, the $1,500 quadcopter decided to fly north and did not respond to commands from Berger’s remote control. The last time he saw it, it was “flying toward a quiet and unsuspecting north Las Cruces neighborhood,” the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.
Berger told the newspaper he bought the drone to take aerial shots of his own listings, and to freelance for other agents, charging them for the same service.
Both activities might be frowned upon by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has warned that Realtors who engage in such activities can’t claim to be hobbyists, and that it could take enforcement action against them.
In issuing the warning, the FAA provided guidance “do’s and don’ts” for hobbyists flying drones, noting “recent incidents involving the reckless use of unmanned model aircraft near airports and involving large crowds of people.”
Last month attorneys with brokerage giant NRT sent a memo to executives who oversee more than 12,000 agents at eight Coldwell Banker-branded operations in the Northeast, instructing them not to order drone photography from vendors, or post drone photography provided by agents on company websites.
The memo “strongly advised” Coldwell Banker sales associates “not to seek drone photography on their own” because they “may be held responsible for all fines, penalties, costs and fees related to the use of that photography.”
Berger thinks his drone, which is programmed to land safely on its own if it gets too far away from its operator, is probably intact. He’s reported his loss to police and is offering a reward for the drone’s return.