Drone News

The real estate industry has embraced consumer technology with a zeal, with many agents and brokers bringing the latest tools and gadgets to the process of buying and selling a home. High on the cool factor: drones, virtual tours, and virtual staging.

The Buzz Around Drones

Drones aren't all that new, but they have increasingly become an important way for real estate professionals to up their virtual tour game. Sellers are excited about the use of drones to showcase their properties in ways that traditional photography and videography cannot, but is this type of technology really adding value to the marketing of a home?

The answer is a qualified yes. Drones are ideal for high-end listings where footage of the expanse of a large property can truly capture its standout features: pools and tennis courts, spectacular views, guest houses, and stables. But for a traditional tract home on a standard lot, drone footage likely won't bring any added value to the table.

The Virtual Tour

Virtual tours take virtual reality one step further for home buyers by providing a way to "walk through" the home from the comfort of their couch or desktop. Using a VR headset, you can manipulate yourself through every room of a home, touring the spaces however you like and for as long as you like. The real advantage of virtual tours is time savings: you can easily eliminate homes that don't fit your needs and only physically visit the ones that do.

The Virtual Decor

Another technology that works for any home is virtual staging. This process places photorealistic digital home furnishings into photos of a home, which allows a buyer to take a virtual tour of a property and see it in the most appealing light. Virtual furniture can even be moved to see how a room looks when configured differently, allowing buyers to better visualize themselves living in the home.

Traditional open houses will likely never go away because homebuyers want to "touch and feel" a home. But technology is changing the way properties are shown and viewed, today and in the future. To ensure your home shines at its best in actuality and virtual reality, talk to a real estate professional.



16/03/2018

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Drones are becoming an increasingly common sight in our skies. Today, they're piloted by a range of users, from amateur enthusiasts and the military to pizza delivery companies.

Drones are being utilized in the energy sector too. Sky Futures, for example, uses drones to carry out inspections on energy infrastructure.

"We work with large engineering firms that may work in renewables or oil and gas," James Harrison, its co-founder and CEO, told CNBC in an interview. "We enable them to fly drones to collect visual static and thermal data of those assets."

These businesses can then use software to extrapolate information from that data so that anomalies, cracks and defects can be identified. This, Harrison said, allowed customers to predict maintenance schedules so "they can be more efficient and run them better in the future."

Looking ahead, Harrison painted a picture of an increasingly interconnected world. "It's not just drones, it's your smartphone, it's your helmet cam — everyone is a data collection device," he said.

"Anyone who wears a hard hat for work in the future will, no doubt, have a small camera on which is continually inspecting their work site," he added. 

Harrison said that such a camera may suddenly see a problem its wearer is about to walk into and alert them, telling them it's unsafe to proceed any further. "That's where… we're going now."



16/03/2018

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North East employer Banks Mining is helping its surface mines in the region run more safely and efficiently by deploying drone technology.

Mining engineer Peter Faraday has obtained the qualifications required to fly drones in commercial environments, such as Banks Mining's Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington, after undertaking training with the Civil Aviation Authority-accredited Drone Pilot Academy.

A DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone is now being used to gather data from right across the two sites, including locations that are difficult for people to reach on foot.

A digital camera mounted on the drone captures information in far more detail than was previously possible, and also enables engineers to stay away from areas in which mining machinery could be operating.

Specialist software is then used to turn the information gathered into detailed visualisations of the site that can be used to inform the way in which operations are planned and carried out.

The Shotton and Brenkley Lane sites are just a couple of miles from Newcastle International Airport, and Banks Mining liaises with the Airport control tower in advance of any drone flights taking off and after they land.

The drone can reach a height of up to 400 feet, which is well below the floor to which civilian aircraft can fly in the area, and it follows a pre-programmed automated flight path, although the operator can take manual control of the machine at any time as required.

Peter Faraday says: "Air safety is the key issue for any commercial drone operations, especially in locations like Shotton and Brenkley Lane that are close to airports and flight paths, and all the drone flights we carry out are carefully planned with this as our primary consideration.

"The terrain in which we work is naturally very varied and challenging, and there are areas which are very difficult or impossible to reach by foot, which means we can't get wholly accurate information about them.

"The drone allows us to capture much more information much more quickly than would otherwise be possible, with the visualisations we can then produce providing a huge amount of data from which future site operations can be planned and adapted."  

Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining, adds: "We're continually looking for new ways in which we can operate our sites more safely, efficiently and responsibly, and we've quickly seen the benefits of being able to use this technology at Shotton and Brenkley Lane."



15/03/2018

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According to the report, the global agricultural drone market will expand at an exponential 21.35 CAGR from 2018 to 2026, rising to a valuation of US$1,932.6 mn by 2026.

The vendor landscape of the global agriculture drone market is expected to witness entrance of new players who are expected to bring advance technologies to the market, helping the market move ahead in the direction of maturity, observes Transparency Market Research in a recent report. Venture funding has already started picking pace in the field of agriculture technologies and big investors are becoming more willing to invest in start-ups with new solutions for precision farming. The trend of investment points at the promising growth potential that the market shall possess in the near future.

Manufacturers of agriculture drones are continuously innovating agri-drones in terms of the functionality to stay ahead of the intensifying competition. Companies are actively developing advanced product varieties such as quadcopter drones that can efficiently cater to farmer’s need. Moreover, leading players in agriculture drones market are collaborating with software providers and small vendors to bring easy-to-use and advanced drone packages. Some of the leading vendors in the market are Agribotix LLC, Delair Technologies Inc., Honeycomb Corporation, Precision Hawk, Drone AG, Ag Eagle Aerial Systems, Parrot SA, Aerovironment Inc., DJI Innovate, Yamaha Corporation, Sentera LLC., and Ideaforge India Private Ltd.

North America to Remain Highly Promising in Near Future

In 2016, a vast majority of the global revenue was held by the fixed-wing drone segment, followed by the multi-rotor drone variety. Deployment of hybrid drones is still limited to very large farms and is not expected to gain notable momentum in coming two to three years. This is largely owing to the fact that the overall agriculture drone market is still at nascent stage and farmers are still in the preliminary stages of receiving education about drone operations and their usability. Thus, unless farmers start completely acknowledging the vast capabilities and benefits of drones, hybrid drone are likely to find limited use in precision agriculture.

Geographically, North America dominated the agriculture drone market in 2016, and is expected to remain the dominant regional market over the report’s forecast period as well. In North America, the U.S is anticipated to drive the growth of agriculture drone market. The deployment of different type of drones is rising at a rapid pace in U.S. farms. Moreover, the country has also witnessed huge surge in drone manufacturers who are integrating analytics software with drones for better result.

Rising Demand to Increase Agricultural Production in Emerging Economies to Compel Adoption of Agriculture Drones

The excellent growth prospects of the global agriculture drone market can be attributed to the growing demand for aerial spraying and the need to increase farm productivity across a number of regional markets. Demand for surplus farm productivity is especially pressing in emerging economies that depend on imports to support the food requirements of their population. Demand for drone technology is expected to increase in the coming years as countries across the globe become increasingly aware about the technology and are ready to adopt UAVs in farms for a number of applications.

The rising number of technologically advanced, innovative, and low-cost products in the market are also contributing to the promising growth prospects of the global agriculture drone market. In Asia Pacific, fast-paced research and development activities in the field of robotics will lead to the promising development of the agriculture drone market.



15/03/2018

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For his new short film “Chromaticity,” director Paul Trillo turned the sky into his giant canvas by strapping smoke grenades to DJI camera drones.

“Using 3 DJI Phantoms, a DJI Inspire and hundreds of smoke grenades, we painted the sky in technicolor,” Trillo says. The film is an “ethereal flight over the ocean as mysterious colored smoke leaves its mark across the sky. A beautiful choreography between four drones simultaneously in flight and hundreds of smoke grenades.”

The illusion you see in the resulting video and photos is a combination of practical effects (i.e. flying around the drone for smoke trails) and digital effects (the drones themselves were erased from the frame in post, leaving just the colorful smoke zooming around).

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09/03/2018

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Saildrones are solar and wind powered state-of-the-art unmanned ocean monitoring vehicles, durable enough to spend a year at sea. Based in San Francisco, the start-up making the drones just teamed up with the CSIRO in a move the organisation says will "radically improve" measurement and monitoring in Australian waters and the Southern ocean.

Saildrones can help in a wholle range of science missions - including conducting stock assessments, upload data from subsurface sensors or respond to marine emergencies. They are equipped with both automatic identification systems (AIS) and ship avoidance systems to alert and avoid other ocean users.

Because they can be controlled remotely from anywhere in the world, the Saildrones can be quickly moved from one task to another. This means the CSIRO has a new way to measure ocean conditions associated with special events - like marine heat waves, or toxic algal blooms - that in the past would have required extensive planning, and money for a ship and crew.

The research partnership between Saildrone and CSIRO's Oceans and Atmosphere group will also mean we can collect more information about sea-surface temperature and salinity. The CSIRO will equip the Saildrones with specialised sensors designed to measure ocean carbon.

CSIRO Research Group Leader Andreas Marouchos said the partnership would see the organisation manage a fleet of three Saildrones deployed from the CSIRO in Hobart.

"This research partnership comes at a critical time for the marine environment, and at a time when technological innovation in the marine sector is booming," Marouchos said.

"Saildrones are long-range research platforms that can be sent to remote locations for an extended period of time, delivering real-time data back to scientists that was previously impossible to collect."

Marouchos said the drones gather fundamental information about our oceans and climate using a powerhouse of ocean chemistry, meteorological and marine acoustic sensors.

"CSIRO is at the forefront of advances in marine engineering and technology, with a demonstrated track record in providing new tools and methods for world-class oceans research."

Australian Saildrone founder and CEO Richard Jenkins said CSIRO provided a unique opportunity for marine research collaboration in the Southern Hemisphere.

"Saildrone and CSIRO share the same passion for innovation and engineering to help solve some of the most challenging problems facing the world," Jenkins said.

"Autonomy is a key technology for accessing the southern oceans, which are understudied due to the rough seas and the limited number of vessels that regularly pass through the region."



09/03/2018

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Could drones offer competitive advantage that draws new business? Yes, say these small business owners

Four years ago, Vadym Guliuk had little interest in drones. Then, clients started asking whether the Washington D.C.-based event photographer offered drone video service. Realizing there was a new demand, he bought a quadcopter equipped with a commercial-quality video camera, flight stabilization and collision avoidance technology. The price (including insurance, a commercial license and registration): about $2,200.

"It paid for itself in a day," he recalls. Guliuk estimates that half of his clients now ask for drone video. The best part: only 15 percent of his competitors offer drone service, which gives him a competitive edge in the market.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), sales for commercial drones are expected to grow from 600,000 in 2016 to 2.7 million by 2020 opens in new window, and more businesses are finding creative ways to use them. Farmers and ranchers are sending drones up to keep an eye on herds and crops. Builders are using drones to conduct roof and other dangerous construction-related inspections on high-rise buildings. Amazon made its first drone delivery in the U.K. in December 2016. Small business owners like Guliuk are finding that these flying machines can offer competitive advantages if you know how to use them.

The Rules & Regulations

Drones — formally called Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)—may look like toys, but search the phrase "drone accidents" online for the stories making serious headlines. There was the crash-landing of a drone in a no-fly zone near the White House in January 2015. Enrique Iglesias' hand was sliced by a drone during a concert in Tijuana, Mexico. In 2014, a photographer had the tip of her nose cut by a drone flying inside a chain restaurant. Accidents like these prompted the FAA to release regulations for commercial drone use in August 2016. Here are some of the FAA's Rules for operating a UAS.

FAA's Rules For Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) 2016

  • Must have Remote Pilot Airman Certificate
  • Must be 16+ years of age
  • Must pass TSA vetting
  • UAS must weigh less than 55 lbs.
  • UAS weighing more than .55 lbs (250 grams) must be registered opens in new window
  • Daylight-only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time)
  • Maximum ground speed of 100 mph (87 knots)
  • Maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level, or within 400 feet of a structure
  • No operations from a moving vehicle unless the operation is over a sparsely populated area

"Learn the rules and play by them," says Jake Butters, a Miami-based filmmaker who has logged hundreds of hours flying drones. Butters says he was one of the first operators to get a commercial license under the new rules, and notes that any business or individual hiring a drone operator for business should review the rules and regulations, too.

Flying over people, operating in controlled airspace without permission, and flying at night are potential violations that can lead to fines, or possibly even worse consequences, for commercial operators. Drone operators flying under the small UAS rule (drones under 55 lbs.) can apply for a certificate of waiver opens in new window, which allows operators to deviate from certain rules if the FAA deems it safe.

Get the Right Drone for the Job

"Safety is crucial," says Douglas Trudeau, a realtor in Tuscon, Arizona, who says he has been using camera drones for real estate since 2015. "Some cheap mall or truck stop drone isn't worth the money." Many commercial-quality drones come with flyer-friendly features like safe home return, steady hovering and collision avoidance. Along with the drone, controller and monitor, Trudeau recommends extra batteries, a carry case, density filters and several high-quality micro SD cards to get started.

With dozens of commercial drones on the market, how do you choose the right one for your business? Unless you're long-distance flying (say, for inspection work in remote areas), professional drone operators like Butters and Trudeau fly multicopters, which come in several forms. These experts shared some potential pros and cons for would-be multicopter owners to consider.

Blog Drones Infographic


There's More to Drone Service Than Flying

Trudeau says drone video service helped double his income last year, but he warns that bad drone footage is worse than no footage at all. If you're a pilot without much photography experience, Trudeau recommends hiring a skilled videographer who can also edit. "View their style, ask for references, and make an informed decision." Trudeau's real estate shooting tips:

  • Focus on the home: "A lot of the video I see is excessive aerial video of the roof, the neighbors, neighborhoods, and the surrounding area, with little emphasis on the home itself," he says
  • Keep it short: "A five- to 15-second aerial glimpse into the surroundings or to get a better angle of the home is all that's needed."
  • Don't go too high: Shooting video more than 50 feet above ground level risks minimizing the home. Trudeau's "sweet spot": 20 to 30 feet up.

Drone, Drone on the Range

While snazzy aerial footage is in high demand, drone technology is finding a niche in other industries. Landon Smith, who grew up on a corn and soybean farm in Indiana, bought his first drone in high school after hearing a drone operator speak at a Young Farmers conference. "I flew a field for my grandpa, took 10 or 15 minutes of video, and we watched it together. We probably talked for over an hour about the history of that field," says Smith, recalling his first drone video flight.

Soon, he was offering mapping services to neighboring farms, where drones can capture everything from vegetation density to monitoring picking operations in remote fields. Smith sees drone use in agriculture getting even more sophisticated. "In the future, I think you'll have all of your different [drone] maps—population, feeding, time lapse—integrated in the tractor, and you can just pull up the images."

This aerial drone imagery of a field (top) demonstrates the flight path grid (middle) drone operators use to capture highly-detailed maps and models for businesses, including heat mapping, topography/elevation (bottom) and population density. Photo courtesy of CAVU Media.

How to Get Your Commercial Drone License

To get a commercial UAS license for work or business, operators must pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center. Unlike automobiles or manned aircraft, there is no flying test requirement. (In other countries, such as Australia, drone pilots are required to pass a UAS flying test.)

Know Before You Fly opens in new window, an educational campaign from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), offers links in-person and online training courses.

To take the FAA's UAS drone exam, applicants must be at least 14 years old with a valid picture ID; to operate a commercial drone, pilots must be 16 years or older. Applicants must make an appointment at one of the FAA's testing centers opens in new window, pay $150, and pass the exam.

The two-hour pass/fail test test covers approximately 60 multiple choice questions; example questions are outlined in this sample UAS test from the FAA opens in new window. The minimum passing score is 70 percent.

The test questions cover:

  • Regulations
  • Airspace & Requirements
  • Weather
  • Loading and Performance
  • Operations

After passing the test, licensed pilots can apply for a Remote Pilot Certificate, which requires a TSA background check. Upon passing the background check, a temporary certificate is issued before the FAA mails a final certificate.



07/03/2018

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Drones take spectacular photos and videos, but is it worth the extra cash to have one capture your wedding? Two experts share some much-needed drone know-how.

To drone, or not to drone—apparently, that's the question! Drone photography is rising in popularity, which is no surprise if you've seen the breathtaking shots these flying machines can capture. But if you're still puzzled or skeptical about aerial photography, and the pros and cons of having one shoot your wedding photos, read on. Here's everything you should know about hiring a drone to fly at your wedding.

Safety First

We'll start with the less glamorous info, then get to the fun stuff. Safety is the most important thing to keep in mind if you plan to hire a drone. Drones are essentially mini-helicopters with cameras, so if the drone operator isn't a properly trained professional, you risk having any number of accidents on your hands (none of which you would ever want, but especially not on your wedding day).

Planning and Professionalism Required

Parker Gyokeres, owner of Propellerheads Aerial Photography and award-winning US Air Force photojournalist, says, "If the drone pilot doesn't have an established safety plan, insurance, extensive knowledge of how to operate the vehicle or close coordination with the venue managers, wedding photographers and the couple, he can be a risk to the wedding party." Make sure your ground photographer collaborates with the drone flyer, then sit down with them and go over their plans. Everyone should be on the same page.

Get Drone Insurance

Gyokeres says every drone operator needs personal property and liability insurance for commercial UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). That way, if something or someone gets hit (which is extremely rare, but still), the operator is covered and the damaged object will be repaired. Don't take the easy way out on this. Double-check that your drone pro's taken the maximum safety precautions. Better safe than sorry.

The New Way to Capture Memories

Josh Rogers of Atmosphere Aerial says hiring a pro drone pilot to shoot your wedding is a no-brainer. “You hire a professional drone operator for the same reasons you hire a photographer: You want to make sure that the photos come out the best they can. After all, weddings only happen once; there are no reshoots." But unlike a ground-based photographer, drones provide a whole new way to document your nuptials. "It elevates your normal, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to a memory that will never ever be forgotten," Gyokeres says.

Take Advantage of Your Venue

Drone shots can capture dynamic, illustrative videos and images that display the scope and scenic context of your event. "Drones offer unique and grand perspectives of the beautiful locations where people choose to wed," Rogers says. Are you tying the knot on a mountainside, vast valley or other stunning location? Imagine looking through your wedding album on your 20th anniversary and having a sweeping aerial snapshot of your venue. So cool! It's an amazing way to take full advantage of the gorgeous space you chose.

Impossible Made Possible

Since drones are so versatile, you'll be able to get creative with your wedding shots. Gather your guests on the lawn to spell out words or organize them in other fun ways. Gyokeres says he's caught several incredible, emotional moments that wouldn't have been possible to get from the ground, like the bride and her father hiding on one side of the house while the groom waits to see her at the altar—all in one shot. (We get choked up just thinking about it!) Rogers tells us some of the best photos end up being a couple's ceremony exit, surrounded by the sprawling landscape or cityscape. The contrast between the intimacy of those moments and the epic grandeur of the vista makes these shots so spectacular.

Minding the Elements

Drones are pretty tough, but they're still electronic devices, so that means no flying in heavy rain or crazy winds (over 25 miles per hour). The good news is that cold weather won't deter them. Gyokeres says his drones have insulated batteries, and his crew keeps everything in the car with a battery warmer, right up until they're ready to fly. Plus, once the drone starts discharging, it'll generate its own heat. "The drone likes cold air because it's denser so you get more lift. You can actually get a couple more minutes of flight time in winter because the aircraft flies more efficiently," Gyokeres says. Who knew? Plus, if your nuptials are taking place in a chilly climate, you might not get many shots of your guests outdoors anyway.

Outside Is Best

Drone pilots can fly vehicles inside, but it's much more risky, so proceed with caution. "We can do aerial shots inside as long as the ceiling is high enough to ensure the drone isn't in danger of hitting anything," Rogers tells us. Having enough space isn't the only issue, though: Rogers suggests avoiding drone use at an indoor ceremony because of the noise. Overall, outside will probably be your best bet. "If you're having an outdoor wedding and you're not thinking about using a drone, you should. Especially if it's on a piece of family property where it's timeless, beautiful and special. Or if you're doing a wedding on a boat, for example, how else are you going to get a shot unless you have a drone?" says Gyokeres, who's flown everywhere from inside factories to above cathedrals and rolling farmlands.

No Close-Ups

Drones should always augment and never interfere, so definitely stay away from close-ups. Not only is it very unsafe, but it's also obnoxious, intrusive and loud. If you'd hoped to capture your vows with a drone camera, you're out of luck—there's no audio from the drone. "You don't need to capture the vows to capture the scene," Gyokeres says. "What you can do is film the walk and the couple meeting the officiant at the altar, and then land the vehicle. You still get the shot you need without interrupting anything."




07/03/2018

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A local Realtor sees advantages in aerial photography via drones as a tool to market some properties.

When it comes to selling real estate, we are all too familiar with the mantra that it's all about location.

That still may hold true. But when it comes to selling, the use of technology plays a major role in attracting buyers to look at a property.

While photographs have always been a part of marketing, in today's face-paced, social-media world, impressive photographs can play a major role in making a sale.

Many real estate agents make use of a professional photographer to capture the photos needed to competitively market a property.

With the use of drones, aerial views of a property are getting some attention.

Relying on professionals

Susan McFadden, operating principal at Keller Williams Realty Group Inc., Wyomissing, said she only uses professional photography.

"I am finding about 50 percent of real estate agents use professional photographers," McFadden said. "And you can always tell right away. It makes a huge difference."

But for about 10 percent of her listings, McFadden also uses aerial photography via drones.

"I use those photos that I really want to show off the magnificence of the property," McFadden said. "It's not always used on a price basis, because the photos really show off a property well. It's a great first shot to attract people."

McFadden said she sees a big difference in response when she posts an aerial photo.

"It creates a buzz on social media, and people who see it tag people they know like a certain type of home," she said. "Sometimes people didn't even think they wanted to move until they see the photo."

McFadden said she sees the aerial photos as a new way to market houses and believes they are not used by a majority of real estate agents.

"They are not the norm by any means, but I try to stay ahead of what other people are doing," she said.

While McFadden said the aerial photos often elicit a jaw-dropping response, she cautions that she would not make use of the drone technology when showcasing smaller homes.

"An aerial photo may make the homes appear too close together," she said.

Putting drones to work

But aerial stills and videos are a specialty of the business, using drone technology.

"More and more agents are doing it, because it is a great way to showcase a property," Lander said. "The photos show the vast area of the entire property, and are especially helpful when showing a property with specialty landscaping."

Lander said the agents with whom she works usually use a photo taken from the drone as a "first-impression" picture.

With an ever-growing business, Lander said she owns three phantom drones.

But Lander said flying a drone is not all fun and games. She noted there are strict regulations and rules to follow.

"In order to fly a drone for profit, you must be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration," Lander said.

According to the FAA website, as of Dec. 12, all drone owners are required to register with the agency.

"It's kind of like getting a license for anything else: You have to register and then complete a test," Lander said. "And the FAA is changing the rules constantly, so you have to take it seriously. A drone is not a toy."

No-fly zones

In addition to the licensing, Lander said she has to be aware of any areas that have been designated as no-fly zones.

"Sometimes, someone has to get permission, but there are some properties where you flat-out cannot fly," she said.

"Also, every time a drone goes up, there are insurance issues to be concerned with."

Matt Wolf, team leader on the Matt Wolf Team, RE/MAX of Reading, Spring Township, said that when the drone technology first came out, some real estate agents questioned if it was even legal.

"Now it is more mainstream, and more companies offer the service," Wolf said. "Some agents use their own drone, but we prefer the professionals.

"It's a neat technology that adds another feather to our quiver to draw consumers," Wolf said.

Wolf said he finds the technology especially helpful when attempting to sell a property, where he wants to show the perspective of the house with the land.

"We've used it in selling a working farm, and the photos showed how much of the land was tillable versus not tillable," Wolf said.

Wolf estimates that he uses the drone photography for about 20 percent of his listings.

"I consider using it when selling 1 acre or more," he said. "It also gives potential buyers who may live outside of this area a good perspective of what the property holds, very much like a virtual tour."

When she started Berks 360 Tour Designs, Lander said she didn't see as many real estate agents using professional photographers.

"It has become much more popular, because in order to stand out, real estate agents needed to use better photos," Lander said.

To have Lander do an aerial shoot will cost about $125 and will include six or seven images.



02/03/2018

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The construction industry has proved ripe for disruption by drone technology. The reasons for this can be difficult to pick apart. An important factor is that the business of construction—both commercial and residential—is highly complex and involves many skilled workers involved at different phases. Each of these phases can be broken down further into niche tasks, each requiring safety oversight, monitoring, and data collection. The result is a long, expensive, complicated process, with many opportunities for increased efficiency.

Early adopters of drone technology saw opportunities to make money by offering ways to make old processes faster, cheaper, and simpler—but they often focused on just one or two uses cases. For construction and engineering firms, there are likely dozens of ways to use drones in order to maximise your investment and run more efficiently and safely.

In this article, I’ll focus on ways that drones can be used in the design, building, and marketing phases of a construction project.

Using Drones in Design & Engineering

The planning, surveying, architecture, and engineering that go into shaping what eventually become a construction job all rely on good data. Using drones to capture images of the land is only the beginning of the value that they can offer a construction firm. By gathering that raw sensor data and feeding it into software like Skycatch, DroneDeploy, or InfraWorks, you have created value that can be packaged and sold under various pricing structures.

Though these applications are powerful, they cannot fully replace surveying. But by combining drone data and standard surveying tools, you can offer clients a wider range of services, such as the ability to measure how much cut and fill they will need in order to make the ground level enough to build upon.

Or you can create a 3D rendering of the site, and then create a layer for each stage of building, show how the project will progress and helping to identify potential problems. Without drones, these tasks might require hiring a plane or helicopter, as well as a staff of data scientists. Drones provide the opportunity to offer these services at a more competitive rate, and with the bonus of gathering the data safely. And speaking of safety.

Drones on the Construction Site

Imagine your client needs to inspect the welding on the thirteenth floor of a structure. They could hire a crane and send personnel up there, or they could fly a UAV and accomplish the same goal cheaper and faster without the risk of having a person working at height, no matter how mitigated that risk might be.

As a bonus, a supervisor or engineer on the ground can receive HD footage in real time, which would not be possible with a human worker. This example is, in miniature, why drones have been so readily embraced by the construction industry. Here are a few other use cases for drones on the construction site.

Time Lapses: You can use drones to take weekly images of the structure, and then stitch them together into a time-lapse video. This can help in coordinating logistics among the many parties involved, while also updating remote stakeholders about the progress. Many executives would be willing to pay for an easier way to visualise their daily ops.

Job Site Monitoring: There is huge potential here. As it stands, flying a UAV over people is not allowed without a permit, but the FAA works with applicants who are willing to prove their processes are safe (and who have proper liability insurance). You can sell clients on cutting down waste and improving the security and safety of their projects.

Thermal Imaging: Drones can be outfitted with a wide array of sensors that can see far beyond what the naked eye allows. When a building is close to completion, a drone with a thermal sensor can fly overhead and identify cold and hot spots, areas that might either need additional HVAC infrastructure or could pose risks of electrical fire.

These are only a few use cases, and many more applications are in development or already in use.

Using Drones for Marketing

Of course, aerial photography and video for residential and commercial real estate marketing are one of the best-known applications for drones today. Rather than hiring a crane or helicopter, many firms are choosing to spend far less by hiring a drone with a high-quality camera and a capable pilot. The results speak for themselves. With a drone, you can achieve unusual angles, take a greater number of photographs, and achieve results that would otherwise be impractical or impossible. This creates a competitive advantage when it comes to promotional photography.

Here’s another exciting use case in the realm of marketing: a drone can take photos showing what the view will look like from any given office – even before that office is built. By pinpointing the position and elevation of a space, a drone can fly to those coordinates and snap a picture. This is unfeasible with older technologies, and serves to get the wheels of commerce spinning at an earlier stage.

These are just a handful of ways that you can harness drones to generate income for your construction firm. As time goes on, the number of companies that embrace this technology will grow as they see the rewards being reaped by early adopters. If you’re interested in incorporating drones into your construction business, read our earlier article on some of the challenges you might face and how to avoid them.



02/03/2018

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