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The Eye in the Sky: How Drone Technology Benefits CRE

| Commercial Real Estate News, Technology| Views: 1969


Last summer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented the Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule (“sUAS Rule“), allowing unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds to enter the national airspace and be used for commercial purposes. The rule seems to have ushered in a new era in U.S. commercial real estate, as the popularity of drones continues to surge and the technology is embraced by seemingly everyone in the industry. Though the FAA imposes strict rules on operating these sUAS, it’s never been easier to integrate this new technology into your toolkit. Drone pilots are no longer required to have an FAA pilot license–all it takes is a remote pilot certificate and you’re good to go.

It’s no wonder then that brokers, investors, homeowners and property managers have all come to embrace drones. These buzzing, watchful eyes in the sky can lend a helping hand with construction surveillance, building inspection and maintenance, troubleshooting, and they also offer huge advantages when it comes to marketing a property. Let’s go over some of the ways drone technology can impact the commercial real estate industry.

Pushing the Boundaries of Real Estate Marketing

Commercial real estate in the U.S. is a highly competitive industry, more than anywhere else in the world. In order to buy or sell a property, you need something up your sleeve to help you stand out from the crowd. Enter drone manipulation: some firms have been using them for a while now, with spectacular results. A good example is ZUM3D, a California-based company that creates immersive real estate visual work for clients such as Colliers, Prologis and Cushman & Wakefield. The firm integrates drone technology, digital renderings, high-quality videos and renderings and professional photo-montage work to create compelling visuals, like the one promoting The Landing at Oyster Point development project in San Francisco.

The Landing at Oyster Point from ZUM3D on Vimeo.

Using drones is a cost-effective, time-efficient way to market your property to clients who aren’t able to come in and see it in person. With the help of drones, you can get high-quality, detailed pictures of the property from all angles, while also showcasing the area surrounding it. Whether on the hunt for a new home or looking to add a new commercial asset to their portfolio, buyers will always place great importance on location. You can check out a building, its exact location, sales history, amenities and much more through platforms such as PropertyShark, and get all your information from there. But virtual tours shot with the help of drones can show you everything in greater detail, and give you something that you might not otherwise get in full without physically going to see a property: perspective. Check out this footage of a commercial studio in Los Angeles by Pacific Coast Aerial Solutions:

Supervise Construction and See Progress in Real Time

Though drones aren’t allowed to fly over people (sUAS cannot operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation, per FAA rules), they can be used to monitor construction when workers are off site, and make sure everything is right on schedule. As the new Sacramento Kings stadium was being built in 2015, developers enlisted the help of drone-operating company ImageInFlight to monitor construction progress at the site. According to the MIT Technology Review, the software, created by a team at the University of Illinois, is helpful in painting “a more comprehensive picture of what’s going on, and can highlight how a slowdown in one area may affect the entire project.” Drones are also used to showcase Apple’s new ‘spaceship’ headquarters in Cupertino, currently under construction. The perspective that drones offer of the massive Apple Park campus is unrivaled, showing the innovative design in all its glory. Maverick Media has been filming the campus during different stages of construction, and has even put together a video timeline that shows the evolution of the development over the last year. Check it out:

Building Maintenance and Troubleshooting Made Easy

Not only are drones useful when it comes to monitoring construction progress, they also come in handy when it comes to safety and preventing building damage. In the case of tall buildings such as high-rise office towers, inspecting the property from all angles is a difficult task, and making sure everything is in order at the rooftop level is particularly challenging. Here is where drones offer the practical–and safe–solution: instead of wasting a lot of time planning, finding the right equipment and the manpower, you can simply use a drone to take high-quality, high-resolution photos and videos of the building, without endangering any workers. This budget-friendly process saves property owners and managers a lot of time and money, and is also a good way to prevent or pinpoint problems with a particular building.

What’s the Best Drone Out There for Real Estate?

When talking about civilian drones, there’s one brand that first comes to mind: DJI. Currently the most popular drone manufacturer in the world, accounting for roughly 70% of the global consumer drone market, the China-based company is also the most popular choice in the real estate industry. Founded in 2006 in Shenzhen, China’s very own ‘Silicon Valley,’ DJI manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles for a variety of purposes, including aerial photography and videography, flight controllers, camera stabilizers, helicopters accessories, and more. The Phantom is the brand’s flagship product line, and the Phantom 4 Pro seems to be the most widely-used drone across a variety of industries, including real estate. Released in November 2016, the drone is sold at a price tag of $1,499. Another solid option is Yuneec, another Chinese drone manufacturer founded back in 1999. The brand’s Typhoon H model is a popular–and slightly more affordable–product among drone enthusiasts, and retails for roughly $1,000.

Check out this high-resolution video of Nashville‘s iconic AT&T Building at 333 Commerce St., shot with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro by Ken Heron:

Embracing Drone Technology – How To

Feeling tempted to test drone technology yourself? There are now a variety of options and places to get your UAV pilot certification, including the Unmanned Vehicle University in Phoenix, the Drone Launch Academy in Lakeland, Fla., or DartDrones in Jessup, Pa. And if you’re eager to buy and operate your own drone, don’t worry, because they are everywhere, from specialized websites like Drones Plus Dallas to eBay and Amazon to your local tech store. However, if you’re looking for professional-grade drone shots or videos to promote your business or market properties for sale, you’ll want to look to companies that specialize in this kind of work. One example is Kittyhawk, which “develops real-time flight operations and management solutions for professional pilots and fleet managers across a multitude of missions.” Companies across the country use Kittyhawk’s services for their end-to-flight operations, in sectors such as sports, media, shipping and logistics, insurance, education, law enforcement, as well as fire and emergency management.

Here’s a list of other companies that provide such services to help get you started:

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