Drones Taking Off In Real Estate Industry Applications

Dated: 11/26/2018

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Goldman Sachs forecast a $100 billion market opportunity emerging for drones from 2016 through 2020. We are more than halfway through that window, and real estate is one of the industries feeling the greatest reverberations from drones' arrival. Drones are able to collect data in unprecedented ways, complete tasks like physical inspections too risky for humans and are impacting the marketing of real estate to investors or buyers in ways never before possible.

Real estate is being or will be impacted by the arrival of drones in four broad ways. So says Jake Fingert, partner at Camber Creek, a Washington, D.C.-based venture capital firm that invests in real estate tech companies. First, drones can allow developers to tell more compelling stories through video. Imagine being able to build a powerful social media campaign to lure prospective renters to a new urban high-rise apartment building by showing week-by-week progress of the building's construction from a drone's perspective, Fingert says.

Drones are also helping developers build more safely and quickly. 

“For example, there are huge delays in construction getting the right materials to the right people at the right time.” he says. “Now, construction teams are using drones to monitor supply inventory across large project sites, so they can better manage delivery of new bricks, steel or other supplies.”

Get ready for droneports

Third, drones are on a path to begin influencing the way developers think about location and infrastructure. Picture a future in which drones deliver groceries, Fingert says. Suddenly, proximity to a supermarket is far less important. If drones are flying everywhere, there will also have to be drone flyways. 

That starts to impact real estate markets as well,” he says. “Meanwhile, you need a whole new network of regional distribution systems [that might be termed] 'droneports.'”

A fourth way drones are affecting real estate is through drone services. Operating and maintaining real estate and infrastructure involves danger for humans, in jobs like cleaning the windows of skyscrapers or handling simple maintenance chores on windy rooftops. Drones combined with robotics will be able to perform the same work without risking human injury. Moreover, they could complete those tasks more affordably and with better quality. 

Drone services are also enabling commercial buyers of real estate to handle other tasks like complementing traditional surveying. 

“Using lidar – basically radar with lasers – drones can develop highly accurate 3-D maps of land, which can help potential purchasers evaluate challenging issues like how the property would fare in a flood,” Fingert reports.

It is also exciting to contemplate the data capture and predictive analytics opportunities drones afford. For example, owners could use drones to analyze roofs for potential leaks and address the problems before they result in damage to their buildings. 

High-flying savings

Many applications currently calling for airplanes or helicopters can be completed far more affordably with a drone, Fingert says. For instance, to shoot a panoramic flyover of a 10,000-acre property, “a drone is just fine,” he says. An average helicopter and pilot can cost between $600 and $1,000 per hour, depending on the chopper and market. That price does not include the videographer or photographer. By comparison, a drone operator will charge perhaps $100 to $200 an hour, including the actual video shooting and production, Fingert reports.

Similarly, drones are very cost-effective for monitoring. If you have an in-house drone team and have purchased the equipment, your costs per hour per drone drop dramatically.”

Asked if the sky – pun intended – is the limit for drones, Fingert voices caution. 

“We're in the very early stages,” he says. “ Can drones take off in a big way? Definitely. Are they certain to do so in the near term? No.”

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Chad Arend

Chad grew up in the Phoenix area, and can't imagine living anywhere else. After working in finance for 6 years, he decided to make the move to real estate in late 2004. Real Estate runs in his family,....

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