The use of aerial shots for real estate properties used to be constrained to expensive helicopter flights with limited camera time in the air. However, the use of drone technology from companies such as Skycatch has disrupted the space, where real estate agents can now provide dramatic aerial shots of residential neighborhoods, and commercial real estate developers can capture, analyze, and create full integrated 3D property models. Effective August 29, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule (14 C.F.R. Part 107) which provides parameters around the definition of civilian drone use on commercial real estate properties (i).
The value add from Skycatch’s drone technology is clear: using drones to fly over a real estate property is cheaper than helicopters because it does not require a pilots license or a gallon of gas (ii). It is also faster than hiring a surveyor to go out and walk the property, and cab provide elevation data, contour lines, and HD photography (iii). For as little as $49/mo, customers can get access to a basic set of features offered by Skycatch’s “Evolution” 3x Drone, which flies over properties with a specially fitted camera (iv). Due to the supportive regulatory environment paired with accessible technology, the use of drones for real estate property surveillance is expected to grow over time. With these benefits however come a few potential downsides which are also important to investigate as they would pose certain threats to companies like Skycatch in the future.
Skycatch’s “Evolution” 3X Drone (v)
As drone technology continues to permeate throughout the real estate space, companies like Skycatch will need to consider the following steps for business longevity:
First, while the FAA ruling currently allows for Small Unmanned Aircraft to be used for real estate property surveillance, this could change over time as the airspace becomes saturated with the technology. Airspace typically concerned the use of airplanes at 35,000 ft in the air or helicopters several thousands of feet above the ground. The airspace just above buildings, established businesses and residential areas is relatively unregulated, and ripe for disruption from companies such as Skycatch with a first mover advantage into the space. The current maximum drone weight is 55 lbs, however that size could be reduced if smaller drones are needed to provide more range and airspace (vi). Zoning and privacy concerns are the largest area of focus, since drones could potentially spy on neighboring properties.
Second, there will be resistance from those whose jobs are threatened by drone capabilities. Onsite project managers for commercial projects may work fewer hours because drones can be dispatched to survey all of the properties at a faster rate. Even residential real estate agents could potentially be replaced by drones and drone operating teams, which can now provide high quality aerial walkthroughs of a home, requiring fewer in-person visits. Granted, the technology would still have small limitations such as the direct human contact for construction workers onsite or face-to-face meetings with a customer buying the house, however for the most part their jobs and expertise can be easily replaced by technology in the near future without being able to effectively transfer their skillset.
Third, drone technology can be subject to the elements, limiting its effectiveness. On days where wind conditions are unexpectedly high, the functionality of a 55 pound drone may be limited since it cannot hold steady to capture all of its data. It is here where the expertise of an onsite project manager may have an advantage since they can collect data and make a judgement about the land or property despite weather conditions.
Drone technology for real estate projects offered by companies such as Skycatch present an interesting opportunity for real estate project managers everywhere. As the quality of the drones increase and the price of access falls, there will no doubt be more coming online in the future.
Total word count: 641 words