Technology

Real estate drone captures topless Australian woman

Real estate firm used photo of scantily clad sunbather in listing billboard

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A drone used to shoot aerial photos of an Australian real estate listing also captured a topless woman sunbathing in her backyard, and the image wound up on a promotional billboard for the property, news outlets are reporting.

Mandy Lingard said she was suntanning in her backyard in Mount Marta, Melbourne, when she saw a drone overhead, and dismissed it as a kid’s toy, Australian newspaper the Herald Sun reported.

But a few weeks later, she noticed that a large sign marketing the property next door featured an aerial photograph that showed her lying face down in a G-string, the newspaper said.

“It’s in the real estate magazine; it’s on the Internet and on the board, and I’m really embarrassed,” Lingard told the Herald Sun.

Eview Real Estate has apologized for the sign and removed it, according to Mashable. The firm told the tech news website that using the image of Lingard was an oversight, and has “put into place systems and procedure to ensure that such instances do not occur in the future.”

Eview said that drones are commonly used in the Australian real estate industry to shoot photos of properties, and that it had commissioned a third party to shoot aerial images of the waterfront near the listing next to Lingard’s property, according to Mashable.

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Eview said that the drones used to shoot the photos have been approved by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the Australian government authority responsible for regulating civil aviation.

That would put Eview on firmer legal footing than real estate brokers and agents who use drone photography in the U.S.

The FAA has warned real estate agents who fly their own drones to take pictures or videos of listings that they are not engaged in a “hobby or recreation,” meaning that regulators could attempt to take enforcement actions against them.

It’s also issued cease-and-desist letters to alleged commercial drone operators, and has subpoenaed at least one brokerage with offices in New York City for information about how the company uses drones for marketing.

Yet the FAA’s ability to collect fines against commercial drone operators should it pursue enforcement actions against them remains a matter of dispute.

In March, an administrative judge dismissed the only case in which the FAA has attempted to fine a drone operator, saying the policy notices regulators had previously issued governing commercial operation of drones were not produced through a formal rule-making process.

The FAA has appealed that decision, and maintains that commercial drone operators “are subject to all existing FAA regulations” while the new rules for drones are being finalized.

Attorneys at NRT, the nation’s largest brokerage, have informed its companies in the Northeast and Eastern Seaboard region that they will “not be procuring drone photography from any vendor, nor will we process and distribute any drone photography provided to the company by an affiliated sales associate.”

The attorneys also “strongly advise” 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.”