Craig Reed

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July 13, 2014
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Drone gives Roseburg real estate agent bird's-eye view

Gorden Hanks worked the toggles of the controller like a kid in a toy store.

But this was serious business as he maneuvered a hexacopter a few feet off the ground during a Thursday morning demonstration.

Hanks is a real estate broker with Prudential Real Estate in Roseburg, and he’s put his hexacopter to work, sending it upward and remotely operating an onboard camera to take video of properties he has listed for sale. The video is posted online with the listing.

“I always thought I could use it in business,” Hanks said of that contraption that could be called a drone, but he calls a “bird.”

“It’s most ideal for showing rural property. It’s another way to introduce and show properties online.”

Hanks and Prudential principal broker David Stribling said using airborne cameras to video property has become part of the industry in the last three years, though they don’t know of any other broker or office in the Roseburg area that’s using them.

Hanks, who admits to being a photography and gadget enthusiast, began studying drones 15 to 20 years ago. They were priced at $15,000 to $20,000 and unaffordable. But when the components to build one became light enough and cheap enough, he was quick to construct his own. He finished his first bird late last year and recorded a rural property near Tiller in December.

“It was beautiful. The shots were just gorgeous,” he said. “I was amazed. I walked away from that experience with enough confidence to sink more dollars into the project.”

He upgraded and finished putting together a new bird and the camera accessories six months ago, at a cost of about $3,500. Since then he has sent it skyward three times. He then adds a voice overlay to provide background music and details on the property.

“It is one of those things that separates Gorden from everybody else,” Stribling said. “It’s a service that nobody else around here is providing. It’s not just the copter, but all the audio and video and other things that he puts together as a part of a total package on a listing.”

In order to better be able to remotely control the onboard camera, Hanks has taught Keigen Hanks, his 9-year-old grandson, to control the bird.

“Keigen learned how to fly, so I can concentrate on the photography,” Hanks said.

Hanks said the bird has to be in sight for the operator to control it. He said he’s never had it more than 80 feet in the air.

He explained he got the idea to use a flying camera when he was on a bluff overlooking the Umpqua River at River Forks Park.

“I just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to have a bird fly out and have a camera pointed back toward the property to take video?’” he said.

Hanks said other methods to elevate a camera are a hand-held pole, a mast mounted on a vehicle, a small tethered blimp and a kite.

“My bird is by far the most fun to use,” Hanks said.

Stribling said Hanks was one of the first real estate brokers in the area to produce video tours of listings, an improvement over still photos. He’s now the first to use a flying camera to capture video and photos from overhead angles.

Hanks is certified and insured through the American Modelers Association. He said that organization’s regulations don’t allow for the hexacopters to fly over people or structures.

He said his bird has never been out of control, but he has seen that they can go astray and could be hazardous to a person or building.

“I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to do with it,” he said. “It has allowed me to use all the things that I enjoy and have learned over the years … gadgetry, photography, video, working with family. It’s one of those fortunate things where everything is working together for me.”

• Business Editor Craig Reed can be reached at 541-957-4210 or

I just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to have a bird fly out and have a camera pointed back toward the property to take video?’
Gorden Hanks
real estate broker

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The News-Review Updated Jul 13, 2014 12:38AM Published Jul 16, 2014 09:33AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.