Even before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) eased restrictions on commercial drone use in August 2016, real estate was one of the sectors that most enthusiastically adopted unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). According to BI Intelligence, only photography uses more drones than real estate.
Numerous benefits drive the use of drones in the industry. Aerial photography and video are a powerful tool, especially in commercial real estate. Drones make obtaining this content substantially more feasible. It easily surpasses satellite imagery regarding quality, and is much more affordable than using a manned plane or helicopter to capture imagery from above.
Now that it’s easier than ever to use drones thanks to technological advancements, improved affordability and increasingly accommodating regulations, the benefits for the commercial real estate sector are even more apparent. Here are some of their most prominent applications.
Site Selection and Marketing
UAVs can take fantastic aerial pictures and videos of properties and the areas surrounding them. This footage can make powerful marketing content, as it gives potential clients or tenants the ability to easily learn about a location in an exciting and appealing format. There’s nothing like an aerial view to really make a property stand out.
This capability is also useful for site selection. Aerial photography and video provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of a location. You can also get information that may otherwise be difficult to find, such as how traffic typically flows in and out of the area.
While you will most likely want to visit a site in person before making a final decision, having extensive aerial footage of site options can help eliminate those that don’t fit your needs. Reducing the number of places you need to visit in person will help streamline the site selection process and thereby reduce costs associated with it.
Finding and signing a new commercial lease is typically a long and prohibitive process. The process can take at least 6 months for small companies and up to 3 years for larger businesses. Removing any amount of time from that period speeds progress toward relocation and increased growth — so businesses will appreciate the efficiency that drones bring to the leasing process.
Drones can also play a role in commercial real estate inspections, including comprehensive baseline work and routine checks over the life of a property.
In addition to photography and videography equipment, you can equip UAVs with a wide range of sensors. For instance, thermal sensors affixed to drones can measure whether hot or cool air is escaping from a building, enabling you to improve its heating and cooling efficiency. This thermal testing equipment can also help in detecting damaged building infrastructure and water pooling under a flat roof.
Using a drone to perform inspections has numerous benefits. UAVs can conduct examinations much more quickly than a human could, as all it needs to do is fly over the building with the necessary sensors. Using a UAV also eliminates the danger of having an inspector climb onto the roof of a building.
Drones can also assist with regular inspections required to maintain a property. Using a UAV makes it much easier and safer to inspect rooftop equipment, high windows and more.
You can use drones to check for damage after a storm or other natural event. These conditions can be especially hazardous for inspectors to carry out, making an unmanned inspection a smart choice.
Using drones for inspection may increase the frequency with which they’re performed because it reduces the time it takes to complete them and is more cost-effective. This may lead to safer properties and less risk for property owners.
Combining UAVs with other advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, may make them even more useful. Machine learning programs can look through the imagery provided by drones and help identify anomalies that may require a closer look. This can greatly improve the overall safety of a commercial property and potentially lengthen its lifespan.
Drone usage is becoming more common, but the technology is still new enough that regulations have not entirely caught up with it. Federal, state and local rules do not always align. These disconnects can present a challenge to real estate professionals looking to use UAVs.
If you do plan to use drones, make sure you research and carefully follow all relevant laws. As a commercial user, you’ll need to pass a test from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and receive certification. As you fly your drone, be sure to follow all FAA rules and respect others’ privacy. If you do these things, you should be able to stay out of trouble.
Insurance companies also sometimes don’t cover commercial drones, leaving their owners to foot the bill if their’s crashes or is otherwise involved in an incident. As drones become increasingly popular, more insurance companies may start covering them. Real estate companies can also get insurance coverage specifically for their drones from companies such as Unmanned Risk Management.
Benefits of Drones in Commercial Real Estate
Drones are a relatively new, but increasingly popular, technology in the commercial sector. Commercial real estate is one area in which UAVs can have several substantial benefits.
Drones can survey potential sites and conduct inspections quickly, increasing the efficiency of site selection, inspections, regular maintenance and more.
They can also reduce risks by ensuring all parties have more comprehensive information about a property through more thorough inspections. They can even make conducting inspections themselves safer, as they eliminate or reduce the need for someone to climb up onto roofs and other tall structures to perform them.
Most of the drones a real estate professional would typically use are also easy to operate. You need to study and follow FAA rules, but flying the drones requires very little training. They are also becoming increasingly affordable, making them a cost-effective option for more companies.
Real estate was one of the foremost early adopters of commercial drones, and it seems the sector will continue to use them for a variety of applications. They provide many benefits related to commercial real estate decisions, including reducing inefficiency and risk. If you’re investing in commercial real estate or are otherwise involved in the sector, you should definitely consider investing in a drone.