It seems that every commercial, office or ranch property is marketed with a beautiful video collected by flying a drone. Changes to Federal Aviation Administration flight rules, increased affordability and simpler data processing make drones more affordable than ever. There’s so much more that can be done than simple videos – a world of new possibilities that many companies are yet to discover.

No longer just for video shoots

The digital imagery and pictures captured by drones offer much more than panoramic video footage. Today’s drones come with GPS, autopilot facilities, flightpath planning software, distance sensing and simple-to-use data processing applications. Recreational drones typically use remote control joysticks where the operator controls all the movements. Commercial-use drones, and increasingly mid-price drones, have automated flight planning tools which use GPS and waypoints to define specific drone paths, heights and camera views. Even novices can program drones to fly specific routes taking hundreds or thousands of photographs and/or video which has hundreds of applications across many industries.

Here’s the top 5 ways drones are changing real estate:

  1. Better maps and immersive 3D scenes
    Drones capture images at very high resolution compared to aerial survey and satellites. For low level flights an individual pixel could be measuring an area as small as one inch square or less; many times more accurate than other sources. Using only still imagery and GPS data, analysis software can stitch the photos together to produce full color, photo realistic 3D datasets that provide immersive visualization and powerful analytics. You get a video game-like visualization experience that allows the viewer to fly around the model, exploring any part of it from any angle and the ability to measure any part of it.The same data also produces 2D maps that can be superimposed on existing views, allowing organizations and individuals to get the most up-to-date and accurate view of the real world on demand.
  1. Site planning, modeling, and survey
    Drone flight post processing and mapping software lets operators calculate lengths, heights, areas and volumes without resorting to expensive and complicated ground surveys. A drone with suitable cameras, can survey a building or site in under an hour producing a terrain surface from which you can calculate and measure cut and fill volumes, slopes and aspect. This lets you estimate potential engineer work requirements and costs and see the impact using the same 3D visualizations described above.Drone surveys can even detect hidden landscape features which are not obvious on the ground due to vegetation or ground cover. In the image below the walls of an abandoned building can be seen which were not visible on the ground due to unmown grass. Drones can also cover more ground than a survey, easily capturing nearby features and surveying hard to access features like streams and culverts.
  1. Safer and remote inspections
    Inspecting roofs, warehouses, industrial building, bridges and other assets can be a difficult and dangerous task. Many risk their lives every day to perform roof and building inspections.Why not send a drone to take pictures instead? Autonomous drones let you plan and control the images collected so you can see the assets from all angles and distances, especially in situations that are too risky to get to in person.

    Thermal cameras and other sensors let you look at how separate parts of a building gather and shed heat during the day and a night. Differences show up as variation in color identifying places that are losing heat, potentially due to inadequate insulation, or are colder. Nighttime and early morning surveys can easily be conducted by drones without endangering lives. Scheduling regular inspections using the same flightpath will identify wear and tear, highlight change and help with preventative maintenance.

  1. Security and protection
    Many companies rely on physical, electronic and human security protection. Not only can drones go where humans can’t but they can do it more consistently, in any weather condition, any time of day or night. The same cameras which are used for inspection can provide real-time security monitoring and improved coverage. Drones can be continually scheduled to patrol the skies above and around buildings while the operators remain safe and at a distance. Thermal cameras provide coverage in the dark, rain or fog and change detection analysis can show differences between two flights, highlighting potential security breaches or risks.
  2. Indoors and more
    Small drones are now flying indoors. They deliver similar inspection and security services as their big brothers outside. Indoor drones can provide 360-degree monitoring, cover areas that security cameras cannot and can easily be tasked with different roles at different times of the day or year. Thermal cameras, change detection, surveys and volumetric monitoring have applications as broad as compliance and security, to theft prevention, health and safety and stock control.

Real applications, right now
The full impact of the drones is only just beginning to be recognized. Improved simplicity and sophistication in both the drones and supporting software are providing huge improvements in the usability and usefulness of drones. Behind the hype of package delivery and flying warehouses are simple applications that are driving real innovation and financial benefit – from improved building security and reliability to keeping staff safe.

This story originally appeared on the BizJournals website.

About The Sundance Company
Established in 1976, The Sundance Company has the experience to help you with your commercial real estate needs throughout the Boise Valley. If your requirements include property management, leasing, real estate development, project planning, construction or space planning then look to us. The Sundance Company has more than 1.5 million square feet of office and industrial space available in prime locations in the Boise metropolitan area. More information is available at or 208.322.7300.


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