Drones, also known as remote piloted aircraft or RPAs, have become increasingly popular in recent years, both recreationally as well as commercially. They are used in many industries including the commercial real estate market. Drones have many applications, not least of which is producing marketing material to attract potential property buyers. Commercial property owners or managers may also find that a drone will simplify their property inspections.

Benefits to potential buyers

When purchasing undeveloped land, it helps to have a good look at the terrain so as to check for features which may affect the proposed development. Drones can cover greater areas than a survey, clearly showing nearby features, hard to access places such as streams or culverts, besides giving the potential buyer an overview of the 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, may be revealed by means of a drone equipped with a suitable camera. Depending on the property, this could only take an hour or so; far less time than a full ground survey, besides being more cost effective.

Benefits to sellers

In the past, property owners used aerial photography or video in order to display their properties with impact, although this has proven to be expensive. By using a drone, a property may be videoed from every angle, allowing owners to showcase their commercial listings in an impressive manner. 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 advertisements show photographs 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, not to mention the immediate environment, property boundaries, access routes or other important features. The technology is such that high resolution videos or photos are of superb clarity and accuracy.

Commercial property managers also benefit

The use of drones for the purpose of maintenance inspections, in particular roofs or high-rise buildings, will prove invaluable. Such an inspection can be a dangerous task, however, an autonomous drone may 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 latent problems which may then be dealt with before they constitute a major crisis.

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.


Regulations regarding the use of drones must be adhered to, which could complicate their use by private individuals or commercial entities. However, if you employ a reputable firm which is properly registered and fully aware of the legal implications, you should not experience a problem. Costs are reducing as drones become more popular, besides being more readily available for commercial purposes.


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Telstra has put drones into use across Tasmania to assist with asset inspections and site assessments, in the hope they will improve safety for workers and reduce network downtime.

The telco has been trialling the use of drones for these purposes in Queensland and New South Wales for the last year. Telstra has 9000 mobile network sites around Australia covering 2.4 million square kilometres. 

It is now putting the machines into official use in Tasmania, where one of its technicians has completed training to become a CASA-certified Telstra drone pilot technician.

"Drones will now be used in Tasmania to better assess the suitability of new sites for infrastructure, improve safety for local employees and improve repair times in the event of extreme weather or natural disasters," Telstra said in a blog post.

"Previously technicians had to climb towers or bring in cherry pickers which takes time, particularly in regional areas where land may be uneven or muddy.

"Drones now mean this work can be done more safely and easily and, in the event new parts and equipment need to be ordered, this can be done immediately from the ground."

Drones will also allow Telstra to respond faster in the aftermath of disasters that impact its infrastructure; the devices were used to inspect mobile base stations for damage in Wye River in Victoria in the late 2015 bushfires.


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Flying a drone in confined locations isn’t an easy task. It requires piloting skills, and previous knowledge of the surroundings. But what happens if you need to fly a drone where there is no GPS, no light, and humans can’t go? A new drone certification program from Flyability will help provide Elios drone owners with a way to assess their piloting skills in these kinds of situations, but that’s just the first step for organizations looking to adopt the technology.

The Canada-based company, Unmanned Aerial Services Inc. (UAS Inc.), is working on solutions for performing underground inspections, in a GPS denied environment, and they’re using Flyability’s Elios drone. Last month, UAS Inc. founders, Matt MacKinnon and Jason Carignan, performed multiple missions in the North American Palladium (NAP) Lac des Iles mine near Thunder Bay, Ontario. The NAP is one of only two pure palladium producers in the world, and its extensive operation in the Lac des Iles mine requires frequent inspections to monitor ground conditions and ensure both the safety and productivity of their workers.

Underground mines are dangerous places, especially after mining and excavation which result in open caverns, called open stopes. To prevent caving in the surrounding area and ensure the safety and continuity in the mine, the material removed from these open stopes must be replaced – a process known as “backfilling”.

However, before replacing the material, NAP performs an inspection/survey to determine the condition of the area, and calculate how much backfill material is required to fill the void and ensure the surrounding ground is stable. During the inspection, it’s also important to evaluate the height and condition of a stope ceiling (known as the back) to know what it looks like after blasting, in order to prevent future problems on other levels of the mine, which could potentially threaten lives and production.

Traditional surveying tools for this kind of operation include: a Cavity Monitoring Survey (CMS) on a cart or boom arm, which is ineffective at getting through the tall piles of muck on the floor, in going around corner, or seeing beyond a deep brow; or a borehole camera which is lowered into the stope through an existing drill hole, which can also be ineffective at completely inspecting the area due to being limited to the actual location of the hole and where it exits into the stope from above. This is where UAS Inc. comes in.

With the help of the Elios drone, equipped with both a 1080p HD video camera as well as an embedded thermal camera, and by standing safely under supported ground – well away from the restricted area – the team was able to to gather accurate information about the ground conditions, geological features, and dikes (fault lines) that may indicate where walls are likely to fall. With the collected data, the company can use AutoCad to create a rough model of the stope, used to evaluate risks and plan work.

In contrast to a full day with the traditional surveying tools, Elios performed the mission in 1 hour, and were also able to remove the human element from this hostile and dangerous environment.


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According to an August study by Esticast Research & Consulting Market Research, the global commercial drone market may reach $3.6 billion by 2024. However, a new study forecasts an even larger bumper crop for just one of the many sub-sectors — agriculture.

The study, released this week by MarketInsightsReports, predicts the ag drone market will exceed the entire drone market value referenced in the Esticast report and do so two years earlier.

The report foresees a $4.2 billion value for the agricultural drone market by 2022 — representing a growth rate of 30 percent and beating Esticast’s overall prediction for the whole drone market by $600 million.

Although the marketing report is rather coy with the details – only offering a few tidbits in order to sell a $4,000 full report – it nevertheless touches on some of the key drone players in the growing ag sector such as PrecisionHawk, AeroVironment, Agribotix, AgEagle and DroneDeploy.

For these major players, the precision agriculture sector has already yielded a bountiful harvest of revenue. For example, DroneDeploy, a commercial drone cloud software platform, released Fieldscanner in April. The solution provides real-time drone mapping for farmers, “enabling real-time, offline mapping for immediate in-field analysis.”

The most recent report appears to jibe with earlier research. In January, Zion Research released a similar report covering areas such as fixed and rotary drones as well as data management, imaging software and data analysis. Zion’s report pegs the precision agriculture drone market at $2.9 billion by 2021 – up 28 percent from a 2015 valuation of $673 million

“Drones help farmers take better care of their crops and have a higher yield from the farm,” the report states. “Increasing automation in the agriculture process — owing to the labor crisis such as a lack of skilled farmers and aging farmers — is also expected to have a positive impact on the agriculture drone market growth.”


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Air pollutants known as particulate matter are a complex mixture of microscopic solids and liquid droplets with some particles—such as dust, dirt, soot or smoke—large enough or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Other particulates are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope. Now researchers are expanding their ability to study even the smallest particulates using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to carry such instruments into the sky and analyze what is in the air we breathe.

Once inhaled, particulate matter can damage the lungs and heart and cause serious health effects, “even cancer,” said Aydogan Ozcan, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and bioengineering at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Ozcan’s lab has long worked on imaging techniques for environmental applications. Their research yielded novel lens-less microscopes, where samples are directly placed over imaging chips with no optical components between them for compact, high-throughput and cost-effective imaging, Ozcan said.

Current monitoring techniques for aerosols of this particulate matter “are either bulky or low-throughput,” Ozcan said. For instance, air sampling stations typically use beta-attenuation monitoring or tapered element oscillating microbalance instruments that usually weigh roughly 30 kilograms, cost about $50,000 to $100,000, and require specialized personnel or technicians for regular system maintenance every few weeks. Although commercially available, portable particle counters only cost roughly $2,000 to $8,000, they sample the air at rates of less than 2 to 3 liters per minute, and accurate measurements of either very-high or very-low concentrations of particles is challenging for these devices. Moreover, neither of these options provides microscopic images of captured particulate matter for detailed analysis, Ozcan added.

“We thought this very light-weight and versatile microscope platform would be a good fit as a payload for a drone to perform three-dimensional air quality monitoring—to see the particles in air that people do not normally see with their bare eyes,” Ozcan said.

Airborne Microscopes

In the beginning, Ozcan said, he and his lab had no experience with drones.

“A major effort of ours for this application with drones was to reduce the weight of the device so we can fit it into a smaller, more portable and cheaper drone,” he told Inside Unmanned Systems.

Their efforts have resulted in a mobile imaging system they call c-Air. “So far the c-Air device weighs about 600 grams,” Ozcan said.

The device can screen 13 liters of air per minute and generates microscopic images of scanned particulate matter, providing statistics of particle size and density distribution with a sizing accuracy of roughly 93 percent. They also integrated the device with a smartphone application to control c-Air and display results.

The device relies on cloud computing to remotely, rapidly and accurately analyze acquired images of particulate matter. Artificial-intelligence machine-learning algorithms can be used, said Ozcan and his colleagues, to adaptively tailor c-Air to identify specific particles in the air, such as various types of pollen and mold. It won the Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project prize in 2016.

The device uses a pump to drive air into a nozzle, inside which particulate matter can latch onto a sticky coverslip. Red, green and blue LEDs then illuminate this coverslip so a color CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) image sensor—the same kind used in most digital cameras—can take pictures of the particles from a distance of just 400 microns, a span about four times the average width of a human hair.


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Florida-based VolAero CEO Charles Zwebner is in the drone business. It's a technology that has been on the rise for two to three years, Zwebner says. It's also a technology that companies like Amazon and Google have been investing in and touting. And now it's a technology being used more and more in real estate.

VolAero is a drone video, imagery and data processing company.

Zwebner told Albuquerque Business First he sees real estate professionals – over other industries – are taking advantage of the tech. He said the biggest challenge of increasing the drone popularity across industries is not the technology but humans' willingness to adapt and learn about the machinery.

He works with architects, developers, brokers and contractors to produce video for each stage of a property's creation. He noted work will range from mapping and surveying to marketing and construction management.

"It doesn't matter if it's an agent selling a small house or a hotel needing marketing," he said on those who are using drones.

Zwebner said that whereas photos and video once sufficed, there is higher demand for 360 degree, aerial video. And in a world where there is a high volume of information and listings, drone footage is being used to set the property apart.

"We are seeing this a lot [of drone usage], everyone is competing out there and standard imagery just ain't cutting it today," he said.

While he has noticed popularity in bigger markets like California and Florida, New Mexico has conditions needed for drones to take flight including clear weather and sunny days. Zwebner says the technology is also on the rise in smaller markets as well.

Albuquerque has its fair share of local companies using the tech for the real estate scene. Titan Development previously told ABF it used drones to fly over construction sites, make marketing videos of its properties and give project updates to its investors on a monthly basis. And other local companies have launched to build on the hype.


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Major industrial companies are moving into robotic inspection services, combining their knowledge of infrastructure maintenance with drones, robots and artificial intelligence (AI) for automating the collection and analysis of data.

Honeywell has launched a commercial inspection service using Intel’s Falcon 8+ industrial drone and targeted at the utility, energy, infrastructure, and oil and gas industries. The Honeywell InView package includes the drone, pilot app and a web portal to help customers create standardized routines and crisis-response inspections, as well as providing data analytics.

A General Electric startup is taking AI into the field to automate and optimize inspection of industrial assets by drones and robots. Avitas Systems, launched by GE in June, has partnered with computing specialist Nvidia to develop AI for robotic inspection and data analytics.

Replacing time-based manual inspections of assets such as transmission towers and flare stacks with automated checks based on assessing the risk of defects developing is expected to save customers time and money as well as being safer, says Alex Tepper, cofounder of Avitas Systems.

Boeing subsidiary Insitu launched Inexa Solutions in May to offer commercial aerial remote-sensing services for markets including linear infrastructure inspection—surveying pipelines, power lines and railway tracks. Lockheed Martin is also targeting the linear infrastructure market, while Airbus Aerial was formed in May to bring together commercial satellite and airborne remote-sensing capabilities.

A startup formed by GE Ventures—which creates, incubates and launches new businesses within GE—Avitas Systems is offering inspection services to the oil and gas, energy and transportation industries. It uses drones, crawler robots and autonomous undersea vehicles to automate inspections.

Avitas Systems is using Nvidia’s DGX computing systems to run the AI algorithms it is developing for use in planning the inspection paths, processing the images collected, and for the data analytics involved in automatically detecting defects such as corrosion, hot or cold spots or microfractures.

Nvidia’s DGX-1 supercomputing workstation is being used centrally for coding and training deep learning algorithms, such as convolutional neural networks for image classification and general adversarial neural networks for labeling captured images.

Additionally, Avitas Systems plans to deploy Nvdia’s compact DGX Station supercomputing system locally with the robots to help recognize defects automatically at inspection sites. “We are passionate about doing AI not just in the data center, but pushing it to the edge,” says Tepper.

“Our long-term vision is for the robots to incorporate AI, so they change their behavior on the basis of what they are seeing,” he says. “We are not there yet, but we are pushing AI from the data center to the field.”

Unveiled in May, DGX Station was designed as a deskside AI supercomputer, but Avitas saw the potential to deploy the system in vans, says Jim McHugh, Nvidia vice president and general manager: “We shared our prototype with Avitas and they will soon get the full production unit.” Based on Nvidia’s second-generation Volta architecture, this has three times the performance, he says.

Avitas Systems is using AI to plan flightpaths for drones that optimize the collection of data at points of interest on assets such as pipelines and refineries. AI is then used to layer the images collected on a 3D model of the asset and to perform automatic defect recognition.


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Researchers at Swedish company Inkonova are developing a drone that can autonomously map underground mines. 

This is a fairly big advancement, as drones traditionally require GPS signals to navigate—signals that don’t reach that far below the surface. We recently reported on a mining drone that can assist companies in more safely and efficiently analyze blast data and guarantee that no person is in an area of danger. Ahmed AlNomany and his team of researchers, however, are focused on a different aspect of the mining industry.

According to New Scientist, the unmanned aerial vehicle can transition from flying and rolling, to most efficiently navigate underground terrain. It’s not easy finding a new way of having a drone autonomously maneuver without the use of traditional satellite signals. 

“It’s complicated because we are trying to invent another way of positioning using bits and pieces of technologies,” AlNomany tells New Scientist. 

Fortunately, the team spearheading this new technology is already solving bits and pieces of its conundrum using an entirely new approach they call ‘SLAM’.

Laser scanners calculate the distance between the drone and objects around it, which allow the UAV to continuously create a map of the environment, according to New Scientist. Recently, Inkonova manually piloted their TILT Ranger drone and used the SLAM method to completely digitally map a section of an underground mine in Mali in a mere 10 minutes. The mapped area had a volume of about 30,000 cubic meters, the size of a large lecture hall. AlNomany is already accustomed to this impressive ability, claiming that “it’s not a big challenge to capture such zones quickly.”

Besides digitally mapping its surroundings, the drone simultaneously uses accelerometers, sensors that help it position and move itself without the currently-required GPS signals. 

According to the BBC, the drone has already proven itself to autonomously stabilize itself in underground areas. 

The rolling abilities of this UAV come in handy once it encounters an irregularly-shaped area, like a narrow pathway. Using its wheels, the drone switches from flying to rolling, and moves on. 

“If it is near a wall, the drone will adapt to it and climb it instead of flying,” AlNomany says. 

We recently reported on an "event-based" camera being developed at the University of Zurich, which would rid our current requirement of having enough light to effectively use a drone in near-dark conditions. We also learned about Rocketmine and how its drones help mining operations. 


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Agriculture drone can be used in soil and field analysis, planting, crop spraying, crop monitoring, irrigation and others. Data generated by drones can help farmers to gain a more accurate & detailed view that how their crops are responding to their management strategies which may lead to the most effective use of limited resources. Different types of drones help to elevate agricultural efficiency.

Increasing applications of drone in agriculture sectors have influenced the industry to invest significantly in funding UAV-based startups. Also, increasing funding from venture-based firms for agricultural drones is fueling the market growth. However, lack of trained pilots and stringent regulations may restrain the growth of agricultural drones market over the forecast period.

Nonetheless, adoption of new technology is expected to offer new growth prospects to the agriculture drone market. Several benefits offered by the drone are strongly escalating growth of agriculture drone market. Many vendors such as Google Inc. and facebook are planning to use solar power drone that hovers around the atmosphere of the earth with internet access from remote places acting as flying internet or hotspot.

Agriculture drone market is segmented by type, component, application and region. On the basis of type, agriculture drone market classified into fixed wing, rotary blade, hybrid, data management, imaging software, data analysis others. Component wise agriculture drone market is bifurcated into controller system, propulsion systems, camera systems, the navigation system, batteries and others. Based on application, global agriculture drone market is classified into field mapping, variable rate application (VRA), livestock, crop spraying, crop scouting, agriculture photography and others.

Rapidly increasing adoption of drones for crop spraying application will increase the yield and reduce the wastage of crops, fertilizers, and pesticides. These key factors are responsible for the growth of the agriculture drone market for crop spraying application. Need for technological advancements in agriculture equipment and enhancement of the quality of farming techniques have led increased usage of agriculture drones in the market. Innovations in the GPS mapping field coupled with the advancements and solar power drone in agriculture are expected to drive the industry growth over the forecast period. Drones have the potential to implement better plantation with crop rotation strategies and give crucial inputs related to the daily progress of crops which is further contributing to the market growth.

North America dominated the global agriculture drone market due to high production and increasing applications in the agriculture sectors. Europe commercial drone market is expected to grow considerably in the forecast years owing to the relaxations in regulations and increasing applications in law enforcement and agricultural applications.

Favorable government initiatives towards agriculture sector are expected to be the key growth factors for the European market. Moreover, the demand for the drone is expected to gain traction in Asia-Pacific region. Australia and Asian countries such as Japan are increasingly focusing on the use of drones for agricultural purposes.


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DJI just introduced a new camera designed to work with drones, and in particular its Inspire 2 flyer. The camera is a “world first” in that it’s a super 35 digital film camera tailored for aerial cinematography — in other words, if you’re a filmmaker, documentarian or professional cinematographer, you are probably going to want one of these.

The Zenmuse X7 camera has a large, Super 35 format digital sensor, and supports interchangeable lenses for a range of potential focal lengths. It shoots up to 6K in CinemaDNG RAW format, or can capture in 5.2K Apple ProRes at frame rates of up to 30 FPS. It also can capture 3.9K Cinema DNG RAW or 2.7K ProRes at 59.94 FPS, which should meet the needs of most post-production work from Hollywood on down (or up I guess, depending on your perspective).

The new DJI camera uses DJI’s DL-Mount system, and works with prime lenses with fixed focal lengths of 16mm, 24mm, 35mm and 50mm, each with a max aperture of F/2.8, and all with carbon fiber bodies to optimize light weighting. The 16mm lens has a built-in ND filter that can provide up to 4 extra stops of light control. All together, the array weighs only 631 grams with the 16mm lens attached.

High-quality cinema video doesn’t come cheap, of course — but at $2,699 US for the camera, it’s not a bank-breaker for production professionals either. The 16mm, 24mm and 35mm lenses weight in at $1,299 each, and the 50mm will cost $1,199. 


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