4 Intriguing Ways Drones Will Remodel Commercial Real Estate

Aerial drones are replacing boots on the ground with technology in the air. Will commercial real estate see the same transformation?

The trend of accomplishing more and more with unmanned aerial vehicles presents both challenges and opportunities for owners and investors in commercial real estate.

While military applications have led the way so far, the drone explosion has prompted both large corporations and startups to venture into the private drone business. The use of drones for commercial purposes is expected to expand at a 19 percent compounded annual growth rate between now and 2020. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration is sorting through a host of issues sure to arise.

A drone flies near an office property.

A drone flies near an office property.

Already, drones have begun to change how commercial real estate owners and investors make decisions. Whether you’re an early adopter or fast follower, now is the time to understand what’s taking off. Here are four areas to watch:

Marketing: Interactive photo galleries and 360-degree virtual tours are old hat. The next trend in marketing properties is to hire a commercial drone to showcase from above. The idea is already catching on in Southern California, where high-end residential Realtors have used drone video to market estates. Expect striking commercial properties to be marketed in similar fashion.

Due Diligence: Inspecting a piece of property curbside gives investors one perspective. Viewing an asset from 100 feet in the sky is another. An investor conducting due diligence on a property hundreds of miles away can now hire a drone to survey the area. Could drone-conducted due diligence someday replace traditional site tours?

“Look at what Google Maps did to help people understand the location of a property. Drones present another clever new tool for analyzing real estate,” QuietStream Financial Chief Executive Robert Finlay says. “However, nothing replaces boots on the ground for due diligence. I’d much rather walk the property than see a drone video.”

Security: Drone surveillance? Not in my backyard. As drones proliferate, security will become a greater issue for commercial real estate operators — on both sides of the issue. Many large office properties use private security officers and video surveillance to monitor a property on the ground. In the future, it may prove cost effective to also secure an asset with an aerial presence. Likewise, property owners are sure to invest in systems designed to keep outsiders from peeping. If property lines are vertical, some owners will do their best to enforce those lines into the air.

Logistics: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos raised eyebrows when he claimed plans to one day deliver packages with drones. Today, the idea is nearing reality as small providers are already experimenting with drone deliveries. Commercial property developers and operators will need to consider how to accommodate commercial drones arriving with packages. Could we one day soon see commercial properties with reserved space for drone landings and drop-offs?