A/V-equipped drones offer unique perspectives for the real estate, construction communities
By Thomas Wasinski
Aerial photography has long been a friend to the construction, architecture and real estate industries, providing valuable, aesthetically attractive imagery of prospective properties, construction sites and completed building projects alike. Among their typical uses, aerial photos and videos assist in land surveys, development planning and marketing real estate. However, until recently, there were only three options for capturing aerial photography: airplane, helicopter or blimp. That is no longer the case. Today, unmanned aerial systems (i.e., drones) are revolutionizing the discipline and they are quickly becoming the go-to option for any aerial media that might be required.
This is because drones are able to hit the “sweet spot.” Most unmanned aerial systems, especially multi-rotors, are designed for low to mid altitude. That is 400 feet and below, that typically provides an ideal vantage point which is close enough to provide great detail, but elevated enough to capture a physically large area from a unique angle.
The drone business is quickly growing into a billion dollar industry. That is because they can serve so many industries and satisfy needs that have been around for years. For example, about 45,000 annual bridge inspections could be conducted with small drones. Most bridge inspections currently employ hydraulic mobile cranes called “snoopers.” The average cost of an inspection using a snooper is $3,250. Cable bridge inspections are even more expensive because they often require a 200-foot aerial lift. Now the service can be delivered at a fraction of that cost.
They can save lives in other industries. There were more than 95 fatalities from 2004 to 2012 involving climbers working on towers. By using drone technology, that risk can be eliminated entirely by having the drone do all of the elevated monitoring. In other cases, companies are working on a solution to deliver defibrillators to people suffering from cardiac arrest. These are just a few examples of drones’ many applications.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently unveiled new proposed rules regarding the operation of commercial drones, which previously were effectively banned unless the operator carried a special permit requiring a licensed pilot. The new guidelines essentially allow drones to fly legally for commercial purposes if traveling below 500 feet during daylight hours and within the operators’ sight. These rules are largely favorable to companies that want to use small drones for commercial purposes, potentially leading to the widespread flights by unmanned aircraft performing aerial photography, crop monitoring, inspections of cell towers and bridges, and other work.
The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), an industry trade association, estimates that small, commercial drones will create 70,000 jobs with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion in the first three years after their integration into U.S. skies.
Multi-rotors or “drones” can have anywhere from three to 10 propellers on arms that extend from the body of the craft. Each propeller is attached to a small, yet strong motor that produces enough thrust to elevate a craft weighing up to 55 pounds. They are battery powered and can stay in the air for as long as 25 minutes, although larger multi-rotors can only fly for approximately 12 minutes.
Many crafts are equipped with brushless gimbals. Having a brushless gimbal allows aerial video to come out smooth and steady despite vibration of the craft, orientation of the craft, and wind gusts. However, the brains are the most amazing part of the machine. Whether your flight is manual or autonomous, the craft will know where it is at all times. Through the use of GPS, the drone knows where it is and will stay in the same exact spot when left in a hover, waiting for its next command.
These capabilities pair well with the latest advancements in camera technology. For instance, today’s 4k Ultra High-Definition cameras provide footage that is four times the quality of standard 1080 resolution. When all of these different pieces are working together, the results are more than extraordinary.
In summary, the future looks bright for the use of drones to deliver stunning aerial photos and videos for a wide range of uses. In Northeast Ohio and beyond, informed property owners/managers, builders and real estate professionals are beginning to see the value in partnering with a forward-thinking company specializing in these exciting new technologies.