Drones: A Controversial Eye in the Sky for Property Managers

by

Property Management Analyst, Software Advice

The FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, passed in 2012, will authorize funds exceeding $60 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through 2015. The bill, intended to accelerate modernization in U.S. aviation, includes a rather controversial component: drones.

By September 2015, the FAA is required to accept and support the flight of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in U.S. airspace. The range of potential commercial uses for these UAVs is vast and, not surprisingly, of interest to a broad spectrum of markets–including real estate and property management.

In fact, until the bill passed last February (which restricts airspace accessibility until the FAA devises a plan for non-authority UAVs), some real estate agencies had already begun hiring companies specializing in aerial photography via drones. The LAPD cracked down on such operations in January, warning of possible FAA violations.

While awaiting the FAA’s release of new regulations on commercial drone use, companies are designing high-tech devices ready to perform a slew of airborne operations. Other organizations are considering how using these drones could improve their businesses. Meanwhile, the public and media are in frenzies about what such flying contraptions mean in their day-to-day lives.

What is the potential future of drones in the U.S. real estate market? And what concerns are residents expressing?

How UAVs Can Support Real Estate and Property Management

The potential to gather high-resolution, current, and panoramic aerial images and satellite imagery of a property without paying the high price of manned aircraft is a valuable opportunity–particularly in the case of high-dollar estates. The marketability impact of such images could be very valuable.

Aerial Drone Photography

David Record, the CEO of Advanced Unmanned, points out the problem with much of today’s satellite imagery is that it’s very old. “These UAVs allow the end-user to have imagery that is fresher and more relevant; thus, the imagery itself becomes a party of the decision-making process.”

Such imagery and data collection also allows for more offsite involvement by a property’s owners or stakeholders. Record explains, “The expansion of accessible, relevant data allows property owners, planners, and other entities to make decisions from a desktop rather than having to travel on-site to acquire the same information.”

Aerial Drone Photography

Adkins sees a “strong future for drones.” In the case of property surveillance and maintenance, he says, “There’s a value in inspecting properties from the outside, ensuring maintenance people show up, and making sure pools are being properly maintained.”

As technology expands and regulations and allowances fall in place, how could UAVs contribute to property management and real estate needs? Adkins suggests, “Imagine a drone flying to a property that has an electronic lockbox and letting a workman in. If it were solar-powered, it could rest outside and ensure the property was properly locked and return the key to the lockbox.”

High-Flying Concerns

The word “drone” connotes a military device or intelligence collection vehicle in the minds of most Americans. So, it’s understandable that many people feel a bit awry about the 30,000 commercial and private drones estimated to be navigating U.S. airways by 2020.

Americans are not averse to domestic drone use completely, though. The below infographic demonstrates that Americans are most comfortable with implementing UAVs for protective measures–like search-and-rescue operations or locating fugitives. It’s the military and intelligence capabilities, however, that leave many bothered.

Invasion of the Drones

(Image Source: Good Technology)

The potential for invasion of privacy seems to be the primary concern expressed by the American public regarding drones. The problem with privacy, however, is that–particularly from the air–there’s little definition of what violation means, or what rights to privacy guarantee. Fourth amendment rights carry different implications for exposed areas outside of a home versus what is shielded by a resident’s walls.

There are concerns for companies considering drone-ownership, too. Joe Adkins, CEO and Broker at The Realty Factor says, “Owning drones could easily be spun into bad press that a company might not be ready for. Additionally, high-tech sometimes means high-cost if you aren’t able to troubleshoot issues yourself.”

What Do You Think?

There’s an array of opinions on the subject–stemming from the uncertainty of impending FAA regulations and the real impact on the American public. Until the FAA defines its regulations, we can’t be sure what the future of commercially-operated UAVs will hold.

How do you feel about the allowance of commercial UAVs in the airway? Do you feel your privacy is at stake, or do you trust governmental restrictions to protect those rights? If you are a real estate or property management professional, how do you perceive the implementation of UAVs in your field? Feel free to begin a discussion below, or email me at ashley@softwaredvice.com.

Thumbnail image created by Don McCulloughAerial images courtesy of SkyCamUSA.

 
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