Firm that takes drone photography for Chicago real estate developers gets key federal approval

Helios Visions, based in West Town, received a waiver from the FAA to fly drones over construction sites while crews are working.

TRD CHICAGO /
Nov.November 14, 2019 12:01 PM
Helios Visions was granted a waiver in September from the Federal Aviation Administration (Credit: iStock)

Helios Visions was granted a waiver in September from the Federal Aviation Administration (Credit: iStock)

A Chicago-based company has become the first in the city to win federal approval for its operators to fly drones over people.

Helios Visions was granted a waiver in September from the Federal Aviation Administration. The company, based in West Town, expects to use it sparingly to fly drones over construction sites when crews are working, like to supplement a ground surveying crew, for example. But the waiver could eventually be used to expand the business into photographing and filming outdoor festivals or making local deliveries.

Helios Visions Co-founder Ted Parisot

Helios Visions Co-founder Ted Parisot

Co-founder Ted Parisot told the Sun-Times that he and a few friends in 2014, ahead of the commercial drone industry, discussed how they could turn their interest in drones into a business.

In the past several years, Helios Visions has provided aerial photography to architecture and construction firms, including for the 78 development on the Near South Side and the renovation of the old Cook County Hospital.

Parisot said drones are a “safer, faster solution” to having someone take photos from a cherry picker or relying on workers to make assessments from scaffolding.

The FAA issues the federal waivers to operators who have a commercial license, allowing them to fly a drone at night, to operate a drone from a moving vehicle and for a single pilot to operate more than one drone at a time.

Parisot said Helios Visions had to spend “thousands of dollars” on additional hardware for its drone, including a parachute that could deploy in an emergency, and to get the drone certified to prove it met requirements in order to get the waiver.

Chicago was the first major U.S. city to create its own rules and regulations governing the use of drones when it passed them in 2015 and they remain some of the strictest on the books. [Sun-Times] — Brianna Kelly


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