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Surveying Drones – The New Frontier for Real Estate Developers

Recently, drone technology has caught the attention of real estate and land developers. Drones are capable of offering highly accurate and detailed photographs and videos, showcasing the entire expanse of a property for surveying.

The process is fast and cheap. Drones produce usable information within days as opposed to weeks with traditional methods. This gives developers more time to validate the project before spending any money.

More for Less

Traditional methods of staking acreage for development or paying a pilot to take aerial photographs by plane can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For only a fraction of the cost of traditional survey means, developers can use drone services to survey land.

Traditionally, old surveying methods lacked the detail necessary to envision the project.

High definition cameras mounted on drones give them superior detail and accuracy. Furthermore, the powerful cameras reveal more opportunities and weaknesses.

With superior cameras and the ability to fly low to the ground, drones allow developers to take a deeper look at more parcels up-front.

The ability to survey more parcels at little cost, developers have a wider selection to choose from. A drone has the ability to survey a 100-acre property in three days for only a few thousand dollars.

If developers can look at more parcels, odds are they will make a better land purchase. One or two parcels have the potential to become 5 or 10 properties under consideration.

Bigger is better

Drones help developers find the perfect site for development by being able to cover larger amounts of land.

Drone companies are able to use highly accurate topography and orthomosaic mapping making this a reality. The envisioning stage of projects involve processes such as funding, approval, construction, to ultimate return on investment.

The professionals involved in these processes include contractors, zoning boards, county authorities, local inspectors, investors, and architects. They will look at photographs taken by drones to get a realistic view before moving on to the blueprints.

Drones can fly over various types of terrain and can capture millions of data points. Therefore, the data helps developers make key decisions.

Pinpoint Accuracy

One of the greatest features of drone imagery is the accuracy.

Photographs and videos can provide developers with tons of information, however engineers need drawings and measurements to do their job.

Drone surveying can collect data that translates into maps, topographic contour lines, and 3D models. Furthermore, drones produce data for shape-files, Autocad/DXF files, and other formats.

Drones have the capability to fly low to the ground and they can maneuver dexterously around structures. Satellite and manned aircraft can never capture imagery at this level of detail.

Furthermore, if the data is dense enough, drone survey images are orthorectified to match both their map coordinates and elevations at each point. Orthomosaic mapping is when all the photographs taken are stitched into a coherent whole.

The elevation and drainage calculations can be made from drawings produced at scale across the parcel.

Drone photography is accurate enough to offer developers precise measurements, within centimeters. The exploratory survey data can be incorporated into the eventual construction work.

The Business

Drone companies and a survey firms have very different skill sets. As the drone surveying business evolves, developers are using specialized drone companies that work extensively with surveyors.

Surveying is a professional skill as well as piloting drones. In addition, these two fields work well together and make real estate development much more cost effective.

Climbing a mountain top to gain a clear vision of the land that people wanted to build on was once the only method. Then came planes and satellites, making this process much easier.

Now, drones are coming into the picture and will most likely stay a while as real estate developers realize this is the way of the future.

Nicolas Pupo-Mayo specializes in the current and future application of blockchain technology to the international real estate market. His background is in homeland security, international political affairs, and communications.