Doug Trudeau of Tierra Antigua Realty was the first Realtor in the nation to receive an FAA permit to use a drone to photograph and take video of properties for sale.

Tierra Antigua Realtor Doug Trudeau was issued the first real estate permit in the nation Tuesday by the Federal Aviation Administration allowing use of a drone to photograph and take video of properties for sale.

“I want to help the little guy. I want to promote and market property better so it can sell for a higher price,” said Trudeau, explaining that his clients are selling their homes for between $175,000 and $400,000.

“Aerial photography in the past has been used to sell $2 million or $3 million homes, and the sellers have been able to hire a pilot to go out and shoot photography in a helicopter or airplane,” said Trudeau, who has been a Realtor for 14 years.

For his clients, he plans to use the unmanned aerial vehicle Phantom 2 Vision+ quadcopter to take off and land on a property that is being sold. The drone, which weighs less than three pounds, cost Trudeau $1,300.

“I want to get an elevated shot to get the mountains in the background,” explained Trudeau, adding that showing the property within its community is good marketing.

“I want the best possible presentation for your home,” he said. He said a home with professional photographs can sell for a higher price than a home without photos.

“I’m not interested in the neighbor’s yard, or invasion of privacy or anything like that,” Trudeau told The Washington Post Tuesday.

In late 2013, Trudeau, who has flown model helicopters for six years, began using drones to take aerial shots of communities in Tucson, Oro Valley, Sahuarita, Vail and Marana. He said he wanted to show people unfamiliar with the Southwest that “we don’t ride horses and live in shacks and cabins.”

In June 2014, the FAA notified Trudeau that he could not use drones for commercial purposes. Trudeau said he contacted an attorney who advised him about seeking an FAA exemption.

He filed the petition in July 2014 with the FAA and was notified Tuesday morning that it was approved.

“I have been working hard on this,” said Trudeau, who was excited about the approval.

He hopes to be operating a drone for his real estate endeavors within 60 days. Among the list of requirements, said Trudeau, is acquiring a pilot’s license and passing a medical examination. He needs to undergo flight services training and testing.

Kim Clifton, owner of Tucson’s Tierra Antigua Realty, said, “We are extremely excited about this news, and could not be prouder of Doug Trudeau and his success with this project.”

Starting to use drones in the industry is “imperative,” Clifton said. “It definitely is going to enhance the ability for Realtors to do their jobs.”

Clifton said she foresees other real estate agents who have the ability to use drones doing so. She emphasized that they must get federal approval first.

Trudeau chuckled when asked how many Realtors are using drones for their businesses illegally.

“Quite a few,” he said. “I am not sure if they know or don’t know that it is illegal, but each violation carries a fine that can range from $550 to $1,100.”

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at or 573-4104.


Carmen started at the Star in 1981 and covers the aging population. She wrote “Mama’s Santos: An Arizona Life”, a book about the Mexican and Mexican-American experience in the Southwest through stories about her family. It won 11 awards.