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Remote Pilot Aircraft or drones can undertake dangerous inspections and important land surveys

Drones have become increasingly popular in recent years, both recreationally and commercially, and are used in many industries, including the commercial real estate market.

Also known as Remote Piloted Aircraft or RPAs, drones have many applications, one of which is producing marketing material to attract potential buyers.

“Commercial property owners and managers may find a drone will simplify their property inspections,” says Leon Breytenbach, national manager of the Rawson Property Group commercial division.

This device also holds benefits for potential buyers. When purchasing undeveloped land it helps to have a good look at the terrain to check for features which may affect the proposed development. Because drones cover greater areas than surveys, Breytenbach says they can clearly show nearby features and hard-to-access places such as streams or culverts. This is in addition to giving potential buyers an overview of surrounding land, adjacent structures or access routes.

“The mapping software designed for drone technology can be used to calculate lengths, heights, areas or volumes without resorting to expensive ground surveys.”

Features which would otherwise be obscured by vegetation, including anomalies in the terrain, can be revealed by a drone equipped with a suitable camera. Depending on the property, this could take an hour or so, or far less time than a full ground survey, and more cost-effective.

Sellers can benefit from the abilities of drones as they can use aerial photos and videos to display their properties “with impact”.

“Using a drone, a property may be videoed from every angle, allowing owners to showcase commercial listings in an impressive manner,” says Breytenbach. 

Drones can offer a potential investor perspectives from a development not yet built, such as the view from the 10th floor of an upcoming office block.  

Real estate adverts show photos of the interior and exterior of a building, but with the use of a drone they may show a fluid video of the interior and exterior, the full scope of an atrium, for example, the immediate environment, property boundaries, access routes and other important features. The technology is such that high-resolution videos and photos are of “superb clarity and accuracy”.

The use of drones for maintenance inspections, in particular roofs and high-rise buildings, will prove invaluable to commercial properties managers, Breytenbach says. Such an inspection can be dangerous, but an autonomous drone can be programmed to record every nook and cranny requiring regular checking. Programming the same flight path for regular inspections will allow the manager to assess levels of deterioration, providing clear photographic evidence of the condition of the asset. Regular inspections can also record changes in the condition of the property, alerting the owner to possible problems before they become a crisis.

Breytenbach says: “Regular inspections using a thermal camera will show which areas of a building may be losing or gathering heat in the course of a day, potentially due to inadequate insulation. This allows the owner to install preventative measures to reduce the need for excess heating or cooling of the property.”

Drones can work any hour of the day or night, practically irrespective of weather conditions.

They are proving effective for security patrols over large commercial or industrial properties, securing the safety of the business as well as the staff, he says.

Although regulations regarding the usage of drones could complicate their use by individuals or commercial entities, employing the services of reputable firms which are registered and aware of the legal implications should avoid problems.

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