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1 Sep 2016

Industry Insights: Real Estate

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Meet your Instructor!

Iain Box has joined the AAI Team as an instructor in our Western Division. Iain can fly some pretty cool aircraft, if you think 737s and A320s are cool, and he’s also really in tune with the aviation industry as a whole. I guess that’s what happens when you can say you worked with Westjet when they had 5 aircraft…

A number of you have already had the pleasure of being a part of his classes and though we’re still debating whether he or Kate tells cornier jokes, we’re really excited to have Iain on our team as we continue to expand.

We’re handing the mic over to Iain as he walks you through some thoughts on the industry, in particular the implications for the real estate. Let us hear what he has to say:

This last weekend I again had the pleasure of spending 3 days with another group of aspiring UAV professionals. While the rest of the city enjoyed a glorious patch of blue skies and warm temperatures, we squirreled away in our classroom talking through the finer points of UAV operations; regulatory requirements, systems, navigation, theory of flight and a personal favorite of mine, meteorology. So while I would love to report here that our discussion of the standard lapse rate constantly distracted us from the topic at hand, there was in fact one thread that kept weaving its way into our discussions. Given the investment a commercial UAV operator must make to be compliant with Transport Canada’s requirements –both in terms of time and money -how can such a business model possibly be successful if they are constantly undercut by non-compliant operators offering similar services?

Nowhere is this argument more readily apparent than the application of UAVs in the real estate industry. Read through Craigslist or Kijiji ads or even do a search on the Google, and you will quite easily find UAV operators offering their services for sale. When you sit back and do the math like we did, and you consider the time you spend on ground school and flight training, policy and procedure development, insurance, SFOC application development, conducting pre-site visits, establishing a ground crew, and not to mention the cost of the UAV and payloads themselves, you quickly determine that you cannot compete with the guy that rolls up in a truck with his camera zip-tied to a UAV charging $100.

The hard part, of course, is trying to ascertain who is offering a legal service and who is not. That decision unfortunately falls on the buyer’s shoulders and there is very little information out there to assist them in making that decision. They, like all of us when purchasing a service, are driven more often than not by price alone. The assumption we all go into any service agreement with, rightly or wrongly, is that by the very nature of you offering a service you have met any regulatory requirement to offer that service.

So how can we get in front of that buying decision? How do we get real estate agents to change the first question they ask from ‘How much do you charge?’ to ‘Do you have an SFOC?’? Here’s what I offered the class:

1. Lobby. Join an industry advocacy group like Unmanned Systems Canada and CUAVA and help them get the numbers they need to get in front of this issue. As part of their mandate to promote public awareness and education, they should be working with the Real Estate industry groups to ensure their members know what to ask for when purchasing UAV services.

2. Report. Get to know your Transport Canada inspector. Don’t treat Transport as simply the receiving mechanism for your SFOC application. If you see something you don’t think is right, ask them how it should be reported. Don’t ever look upon reporting as ‘ratting’ someone out. Incident reporting and self-disclosure are the pillars of a very highly regarded Safety Management System we use every day in aviation in Canada.

3. Educate. As you interact with other UAV operators and clients, use that opportunity to educate them on responsible and compliant UAV services. When providing a quote make sure you stress that you are compliant and that purchasing a service from a non-compliant operator could have repercussions for the buyer as well.

As someone in the manned aviation world this trend of non-compliance is considerably worrying. While I readily accept that our airspace is a shared resource, I have a vested interest in sharing it with individuals that take safety as seriously as I do. Individuals who take the time to understand the regulatory landscape, and who invest in training and consulting to provide compliant services. Individuals who on a beautiful weekend in August give up 3 days of a finite Alberta summer to listen to me go on about the standard lapse rate. That’s who I want in our shared airspace.

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