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  • Drones become popular way to advertise homes

    Drone operators are finding increasing demand for their services to get eye-catching shots of for-sale properties to help lure buyers
  • As Tom Bock looked to market his hilltop home near Jacksonville, he struggled for a way to capture his house and property in a camera frame.
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  • As Tom Bock looked to market his hilltop home near Jacksonville, he struggled for a way to capture his house and property in a camera frame.
    Bock found that photographing the exterior of the house, which is shrouded by trees — as well as the 22.6 acres on which it sits — was challenging from every angle.
    Bock knew he needed a high view, so he tried mounting his semiprofessional Sony NEX camera to a 25-foot pole for video and digital stills, but the footage was shaky and blurry.
    So after scouring Web forums and YouTube, Bock reached out to John Tomelevage of Grants Pass, who pilots unmanned aerial vehicles — better known as UAVs or drones.
    "You get views you can't get any other way," Bock said.
    Tomelevage used his drone to shoot a video that sweeps over the house, providing a bird's-eye view of the property, before turning around and looking downhill at the view the house overlooks.
    "This will be a very valuable tool to our Realtors trying to market properties," said Cynthia Spry, owner of Move2Oregon.com. "Virtual tours are wonderful, and this is taking it over the top."
    Spry arranged a drone-video demonstration for real estate agents on Bock's property Thursday. Spry said she plans to work with Tomelevage, but Tomelevage clarifies that his business, Rogue Valley Video, is independent.
    RE/MAX Platinum broker Gail Schoneberg, who attended the demonstration, sees the new technology as a way to help buyers of high-end properties fine-tune their house-hunting strategies.
    "They (buyers) want some assurance it meets a certain criteria," Schoneberg said. "They don't want to go running around looking at places that don't fit."
    Many buyers are already previewing properties using technologies such as Google Earth and Google Streetview, but those easily accessible technologies don't always put a property's best foot forward, Spry said.
    "You have control of it," she said of drone videos.
    For Tomelevage, his recently formed drone video business is the evolution of a long-held hobby. Tomelevage has produced videos pro bono for the city of Grants Pass, the Grants Pass Rotary Club's Duck Derby and the Grants Pass Daily Courier, among others.
    "I've been into radio-control models and cars since the '80s," Tomelevage said.
    A few years ago, he discovered multi-rotor UAVs. He started with a four-rotor machine, but on Thursday he demonstrated a six-rotor machine he built and modified from kits.
    "I have a little fleet," Tomelevage said. "They each have their own characteristics."
    Another business, Grants Pass Rafting, which first rolled out UAV videos for its raft trips in February, has also branched out to real-estate videography.
    Daniel Isaacson, co-owner of Grants Pass Rafting, said his business partner has 36 property appointments in Southern Oregon scheduled for this month. In the state of Illinois, where Isaacson lives, he has 52 appointments scheduled.
    "The response from Realtors is massive," Isaacson said.
    The technology was ideal for Bock's remote property, Schoneberg said, but privacy can be a concern when properties have nearby neighbors.
    "You talk about it, and people either think it's really cool or really creepy," Schoneberg said.
    "I've had 300, 400 flights, and I've had one complaint," Tomelevage said, adding that the concern was later resolved.
    "The reception has been 100 percent positive thus far," Isaacson said.
    Tomelevage said the commercial use of drones received a boost in March when a federal judge reversed a fine by the FAA against a drone operator who had been shooting a promotional video, saying there was no law banning the commercial use of small drones.
    "The judge's decision could open up the skies below 400 feet to farmers, photographers and entrepreneurs who have been battling the FAA over the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles," according to an article on Politico (goo.gl/y3oBfL).
    A more pertinent concern as the market grows, Isaacson said, is choosing a drone videographer who is familiar with flying the machines.
    "These are dangerous things," Isaacson said, adding that they can weigh up to 10 pounds. "My advice is to go through someone who knows what they're doing."
    But the new technology packs promise.
    In the future, drones could be as useful for certain businesses as websites are today, Tomelevage said.
    Rogue Valley Video can be reached at roguevalleyvideo.com or 541-291-3910. Grants Pass Rafting can reached at grantspassrafting.com or 541-507-1550.
    Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at nmorgan@mailtribune.com.
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