Phil Coombes

Phil Coombes spoke to the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce about the business uses of unmanned aerial vehicles, known commonly as drones. Photographed in Pasadena on Thursday, July 17, 2014. (Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer / July 17, 2014)

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An area businessman is looking to change the perception of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly called drones, starting with businesses in the La Crescenta area.

Phil Coombes, a real estate broker from Pasadena, spoke at the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon last Thursday held at Glendale Community College’s Professional Development Center.

Coombes spoke about how the devices bring a competitive edge to marketing, including the homes that he sells.

He showcased his quad copter while highlighting some of his work photography, such as shots and quick-video from the Rose Bowl Stadium and the Colorado Street Bridge Party. Some of the footage included homes that were for sale with sights like mountains in the background.

“You can tell a story from the air that you can’t tell from the ground. It not only tells a different story, but a better story,” Coombes said before his presentation. “With these copters, we can go places where traditional helicopters can’t. We can go where it’s not safe and go where it’s cost-prohibitive.”

In addition to his photography work, Coombes discussed the social responsibility of using unmanned aerial vehicles. The devices are restricted to recreational use, being flown in an operator’s line of sight no more than 400 feet high and flown at least 5 miles away from an airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

In recent weeks, the use of unmanned aircraft systems has sparked conversation across not only California, but the country.

Last month, a Torrance resident admitted using an aerial vehicle to monitor police activity at DUI checkpoints and traffic stops. A group of Los Angeles Kings fans, who were celebrating the hockey team’s Stanley Cup victory, swiped a similar aerial vehicle hovering above, angered by the intrusion.

“It’s all about educating the public on what these are,” Coombes said. “These aren’t evil. It’s all about marketing your services and being able to show it from a different view.”

Coombes has been a real estate broker for more than 10 years. He’s always had an interest in photography, but started to use the aerial vehicles to take shots two years ago.

The winged devices could be of use for not just businesses, but the chamber when promoting events for large crowds, Coombs said.

Some of his aerial photographs have been kept for use by the places he’s captured, from the Cruise Night at Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank to outside of the Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

He said he hopes the seminar will be the start of attracting business owners to what can be done on not just a different scale, but a quicker one.

“In this world, everything is instant. This is one more tool to help businesses do that,” Coombes said of the aerial vehicles. “And bring people to that area.”