The World According to Dave
Monday, March 31, 2014
by: David Osborn, Meissner Jacquet Investment Management Services

Section: News

I was reading an article the other day in the San Diego Daily Transcript (a great read and fellow BOMA member and contributor) about the future use of drones in the commercial realm, including for commercial real estate.
Now, first a word about the use of the word “drone”, which is getting some bad press. When I was younger, I built what we called a radio control (R.C.) glider that was able to be flown with a wireless transmitter (hence the name). These were hobby craft, non-threatening and were certainly not in any way similar to any unmanned planes that the Army or Navy were using at the time (which were typically the kind that were shot at for target practice). Today, however, the same hobbyist’s planes are being called “drones” what with the proliferation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which are the true drones.
R.C. planes or drones – whatever you would like to call the models available to consumers – are far more sophisticated than in yesteryear. The other day I was at my fav North County viewing hangout, Double Peak Park in San Elijo Hills (best view of the entire county) where a “drone” enthusiast was flying his quad-copter, a model helicopter with four propellers which provides a very stable hovering platform. This enthusiast had a video camera hooked to the bottom of his helicopter and attached to a gimbal so that the camera was always steady and level. He was viewing the real time feed and controlling his copter on his iPad, never once looking at the copter itself to steer it. As I looked over his shoulder trying not to be creepy, I was amazed at the video resolution, the outstanding view, his ability to control the camera angle, and how seeing where I was standing from a different perspective was amazing. I later found out that this entire package ran just a little over $1,000.
Now, not in any way wanting to be accused of trying to talk my boss into buying one of these babies to merely try it out and get to play with it, I quickly ran through what I consider to be the very practical applications this copter might have relative to our industry:
For Property Managers:
  • Roof inspections – avoid having to climb up those nasty built-in vertical access ladders with roof tar on them and trying to avoid getting vertigo as you look over the edge and get that odd urge to jump off
  • Property walks – remain in the comfort of your car in the parking lot of your shopping center as you “fly” around your property and check out the landscaping, look for litter, chase random kids back to their mothers, and generally do what you would do on any site visit, but from the comfort of your car. While sipping a coffee. And listening to the radio.
  • Photography – pick the perfect, cloudless day to get a great aerial of your property from the perfect angle instead of having to rely on GoogleEarth. Have a feed lot next to your office building? Not from this angle.
  • Vendor Quality Control – fly around your multi-story office building and see how good a job your window washing vendor did. OK, it might be considered a bit creepy to have a copter with a video camera slung from it checking out your office, but I think that tenants will get used to it. Or they’ll call the cops.
For Vendors:
  • Landscapers – follow your workers around, looking over their shoulders. Swoop down at them should they miss some edging or fail to rake some debris. Remember, though, that they often carry long-handled tools and might be able to whack your copter out of the sky if annoyed too much.
  • Parking Lot Stripers – after the sealcoat is dry, are your striping lines laid out straight and even?
  • Security – An aerial camera would be a great addition to either fixed surveillance at a shopping center, or for night time drive-bys when you might want to check out a vast parking lot without actually driving through it first and tip off those teenagers parked in the far back corner doing who-knows-what in the back seat.
So there you have it. I predict that within five years, R.C. helicopters/drones will be common tools of the trade within the real estate industry. And you heard it here first. (Actually, it was in the Daily Transcript first, but who’s counting?)
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