Aerial Photography–More Than Pretty Pics

Aerial Photography–More Than Pretty Pics

In the local market for Torben Photography llc, aerial photography had been primarily a talking point. Clients were curious, wanted to know more, but none were serious about having it done.

Torben Photography - Drone (1)At the start of 2017, I decided it was finally time to get in to this evolving space. In particular, I wanted Torben Photography to be ready for the market before the demand actually became serious.  As it turns out, 2017 is the year. Demand became serious this Spring just as I was ready to have Torben Photography begin making aerial images available. This year, only two of my customers have not asked me if aerial (drone) images were available.  Not all have followed-through, but a number have.

Around the world, clients—residential and commercial—are picking up on drone technology for a number of reasons. Some of these include:

  • Promoting safety
  • Reducing costs
  • Increase efficiency and productivity
  • More descriptive images
  • Property inspection

The list of reasons is awe-inspiring. Consider highway bridge inspections. Instead of hanging a man under a bridge with a hammer to bang on things, a drone with cameras and sensors (think: infrared, lasers, cameras…) can do the inspection. Instead of the man doing it every 5 years, the drone can do it every year (or whenever). Lower cost. Faster. And, without very real risk to human life.

Most likely, if you’re viewing this article, your needs are somewhat closer to earth. Yes, you may own a communications tower and want a visual inspection. But odds are what you’re really after are images of a home, an apartment complex, or commercial real estate property.

Why Use Torben Photography for Aerial Imagery?

Reduced Risk

Professional Training – JT Pedersen, owner and operator of Torben Photography has completed formal training specific to small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS).

FAA Certificate – JT has passed the FAA’s Part 107 Aeronautical Knowledge test and is a Remote Pilot. Formal certification requires passing a 2-hour exam covering 127 knowledge concepts set forth by the FAA.

Insured – Torben Photography is insured and carries General Liability insurance including Aviation coverage.

Not just fluff: It is important to ensure the commercial drone operator you hire has been trained, licensed, and is insured.  Liability for unauthorized operations falls on both the pilot and the person who hires the pilot.  14 CFR 1.1, translated, states that someone who causes (i.e. hires) the operation can be liable as well.  Penalty for the license pilot can be $1,100 per violation. For the person who causes the operation, a fine can be $11,000.

Real Estate Agents – Read more:
Realtors Have Liability for Hiring an Unlicensed Drone Operator

Creative, Descriptive Photographs

Torben Photography - Drone (2 of 2)One of my goals is to find that shot you may not have even thought to ask for. The image that conveys a unique-to-your-property message.

The message may convey ‘coming home’ differently, such as an elevated entrance shot.


Part of the message can include setting context.  Commercial property owners, such as shopping malls and apartment complexes, are often interested in shots that show what is around their property—sometimes as much as the property itself.

These next two images give very clear images of what’s nearby: gas stations, intersections, traffic flow, neighborhoods (shoppers<g>), and so on.

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Property Inspection

Property inspection is another excellent area for applying drones. Whether as a property owner, buyer, or insurance company, each has unique reasons.  Consider:

Torben Photography - Drone (6)Property Owner – Following strong storms you may want to know the condition of your roof. Is your roof Ok? What might look Ok from the ground may be a different picture (literally) from above, 6 feet away.


Insurer – As an insurance company, rather than send out an adjuster, an aerial image may provide initial confirmation a claim warrants closer attention. Combined with standard satellite rooftop measurements used by most insurers now, a drone image such as these may prevent even needing an adjuster to go out.

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Flying in Controlled Airspace

As you would expect, the FAA tightly controls the airspace across the United States. Commercial drone operators are able to fly (relatively) freely, without control, in what’s called Class G airspace.  Class G airspace is basically from Surface to 400’ AGL (above ground level).

However, Class G airspace ends near towered airports.  In general, Class B (think Detroit Metro Airport, DTW), Class C (think Bishop Intl Airport, FNT), and Class D (think Ann Arbor & Oakland Airports), have controlled airspace with a 5 mile radius around them.  You do not fly in those areas without permission from ATC (air traffic control).

This next image is of a Sectional chart. It depicts the airspace in southern Michigan, from Lansing in the upper-left, with Detroit and parts of Canada to the far right.  Sectional

The blue circles, magenta, and dashed blue circles all depict controlled airspace surrounding an airport. I won’t go into explaining what everything means. What the map serves to illustrate is how many ATC controlled airports are in the area. If you’re not willing to fly within 5 miles of an airport, perhaps 40% of the Detroit Metro area becomes a no-fly zone.

If you’re not willing to fly within 5 miles of an airport, perhaps 40% of the Detroit Metro area becomes a no-fly zone.

Many local operators state on their websites that the FAA will not let them fly within 5 miles of an airport. That’s not quite true. You simply need their permission, which means being willing to contact ATC for clearance.

JT has experience contacting ATC for clearance. He’s comfortable doing so even when others are not.  There are many reasons why flying near an airport may not be possible. If you live a half-mile off the end of the runway, or the airport’s particularly busy, permission might not be granted. But that’s not for concern over contacting ‘ATC.’

Whatever Your Need…

…Torben Photography is prepared to provide professional aerial real estate photography for your needs. Call Torben Photography (734.516.0139) today to learn more!

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