Drones Do Due Diligence
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Real estate professionals are driving the proliferation of drones, constantly finding new applications for the technology and leveraging it to deliver lower-cost and superior results.
It seems natural that fast-moving companies like Fundrise, a crowdfunding eREIT, would sense the promise and powerful synergies the technology offers. Fundrise CEO Ben Miller became an early adopter and convert when testing out his friend’s company’s tech.
“I didn’t realize how much they could do,” Miller said in an interview with GlobeSt. “The images they produce are a combination of real-time Google satellite and Street View.”
Fundrise's first successful use of drones involved surveying a Santa Monica office property it was considering for its portfolio. Miller said he plans to integrate drones into his due diligence process, especially when deals encompass multiple properties.
EBI Consulting, which provides real estate and environmental risk management, due diligence, energy use management and engineering services, has also discovered the significant bottom-line benefits of drones, and has partnered with Best Drone Services to harness its fleet of drones, like the DJI Inspire 1, and engage its team of FAA-certified pilots.
Drones are inexpensive when compared to the cost of sending out an employee or contractor to conduct site reconnaissance, and EBI’s Dan Spinogatti said these savings are passed on to clients.
“Having a strategic relationship with Best Drone Services allows us to mobilize nationwide on very short notice for low cost. Both of these factors are crucial to timely decision by our clients,” said David Stewart, EBI's national program director for equity and special services.
The quality of the visuals they produce (above) are superb, “similar to what a technical expert can obtain with an arms-length exterior evaluation," Spinogatti said. This has prompted property marketing teams to upload the HD 4k video flyovers, which EBI’s offering includes, to their websites.
“The adoption and use of new technology will help EBI be of increased service to our customers now and in the future," Spinogatti said. "As the saying goes in real estate, ‘time is of the essence,' and technology is a great solution to the timing demands our customers face."
Best Drone Services CEO Harvey Malkin said his five-option menu encompasses visual and IR thermal imaging-enabled façade and roof analyses. These analyses are more comprehensive, as drones can fly to vantage points (below) that prove inaccessible to humans without serious risk of injury.
“Drones present another clever new tool for analyzing real estate,” said QuietStream Financial CEO Robert Finlay.
Drones’ due diligence use is still constrained by their limited functionality, as they can’t tap, touch or pry. According to Finlay, “nothing replaces boots on the ground for due diligence.”
Legislation also presents limitations, as the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107) prevents drones from flying over people for safety reasons. The rule stipulates daylight-only operation, requires pilot proximity and caps maximum altitude at 400 feet (except when near tall buildings), though exemptions to these rules are frequently awarded.
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