The use of drones to market commercial and residential real estate may be in its infancy but industry observers believe use of the technology as a competitive tool is on the verge of taking off.
The most obvious use of an unmanned aerial system (UAS), or drone, is to create new ways to market a property.
Drone analyst Colin Snow, founder of SkyLogic Research LLC, points out that drones can do things like create panoramas of a building or property in a more straightforward and cost effective manner than other traditionally used methods.
Currently, Snow sees drones being used more in the marketing of high-end homes. However, he does know of instances in which drones are used in commercial real estate for planning purposes and building information modeling.
“For example, before going under construction, a developer might want to create panoramas of a potential view of a building so they can show it to investors or potential tenants,” Snow said.
Besides marketing, drones can also allow landlords and developers to remotely inspect their properties. Small drones can go up on roofs and inspect otherwise hard to reach areas within the exterior of a building. This can be particularly useful during inclement weather periods, such as snowstorms.
Jeff Galindo, a Las Vegas-based Realtor and broker, has been a licensed private pilot since the late 1990s. He acquired his first drone in late 2014 mainly as a hobby but says he “quickly realized the capability to use it in new and innovative ways in a real estate business.”
In the spring of 2015, the FAA gave him the green light to use drones for commercial purposes– a process he describes as “not easy.” Galindo has since been able to share what he says are “different perspectives” of real estate projects that some of his commercial and institutional clients are considering.
The bulk of the work he does with commercial builders is with land acquisition and feasibility development.
“With drones, we’ve been able to provide real-time aerial photography, for example, of vacant large land parcels that would have (previously) taken significantly more time at a significantly higher cost,” Galindo said. “I’ve also used drone technology in my residential real estate business to enhance the view and marketability of a home to help consumers see the property in a different and unique way.”
Looking ahead, Galindo envisions using drones to work with energy efficiency companies to determine what, if any, energy efficiency gains or losses are taking place in a home, or even a whole neighborhood.
“For example, infrared photography lets you see if AC or heat is escaping or if insulation is failing,” he said.
Overall, Galindo sees drones as a fledgling technology.
“We’re at the very beginning of it, and there might be some misunderstandings around it, but I think there’s a lot of good people in the industry trying to do good things and they will be for years to come,” he said. “There’s tremendous opportunity for smart, intelligent use of the tool.”
Making drones accessible
One of the reasons more brokers and Realtors aren’t using drones is that getting permission to use them is currently not considered to be an easy process.
The Federal Aviation Administration is continuing to work on integrating drones into the National Airspace System. Wide-scale commercial use of drones is currently prohibited, but the FAA has created a waiver process for individuals and businesses interested in using drones for commercial purposes.
Drone analyst Snow notes there is pending regulation that would allow a more simple license for drone operators to produce commercial videos or photos of a property.
In a statement, BOMA International – the Building Owners and Managers Association - said it is working with a coalition of real estate associations led by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to encourage the FAA to find ways to make drone technology more accessible to the commercial real estate community.
NAR President Tom Salomone believes drone technology offers a “tremendous opportunity for the business of real estate and the broader economy.”
“…NAR continues to support the integration of drones into the National Airspace and a regulatory landscape that allows for the responsible commercial use of drones,” he wrote via e-mail.