Drones Could Make Housing Industry Soar

Filed in Business Management, Codes and Standards, Technology by on November 10, 2015 2 Comments
A drone captures an aerial view of a new home built by Signature Custom Homes of Edgewood, Wash.

A drone captures an aerial view of a new home built by Signature Custom Homes of Edgewood, Wash.

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a… business development tool? An increasing number of businesses – including builders and land developers – are benefiting from the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones.

Anyone can fly a drone as long as it’s for recreational purposes and meets certain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restrictions. But until recently, very few drones could legally be flown for commercial purposes.

At the start of 2015, only eight companies had been granted FAA exemptions (referred to as Section 333) to allow an operator to fly the drone commercially in low-risk, controlled environments.

In the last 10 months, that number has grown to more than 2,100 companies and individuals.

This sudden growth is evidence that industry leaders are realizing these big-boy toys aren’t just built for fun. They also have an array of commercial applications.

Those who might be most intrigued by these gliding gizmos include builders seeking an edge on the competition, land developers wanting to save time during site surveys, and inspectors seeking safer alternatives when examining hard-to-reach areas.

Getting a bird’s-eye view of a building or development used to be much more costly and cumbersome. The recent advent of drones has since opened the door to significantly less expensive methods of aerial access.

Signature Custom Homes in Edgewood, Wash., has been increasingly using drones as part of its marketing strategy. For a mere $99 an hour, the builder hires a local contractor who provides clients with freelance video and photography services.

Most of the images captured by the drones are used for marketing purposes of finished homes. But others are used for information gathering on spec homes to determine elevations and provide additional perspectives of potential designs.

Featuring a few soaring snapshots of homes on your website sounds like a fun idea, but builders should first determine what, if any, value it would add to their business. Some, like Justin Dodge, development coordinator for Hunziker Land Development in Ames, Iowa, say there are many intangible benefits.

“Yes, there is a novelty there, but it also helps build on the perception our clients have that we’re always on the cutting edge,” said Dodge, who has been commercially operating Hunziker’s drone since May. “It says we’re not living in the past; we’re thinking about tomorrow. And that’s how we build – always looking to create a better and more efficient product.”

Though Dodge admits operating a drone is fun, he says capturing high-quality photos and video footage can be quite challenging. It so happens that Dodge has a background in aviation and is a commercially licensed pilot – factors that helped Hunziker obtain its FAA approval, and continue to give Dodge a leg up on efficiency.

“It would take me 30-45 minutes to walk an entire subdivision that’s under construction. But with [a drone], I can launch it from my pickup and fly the whole site in under 10 minutes,” Dodge said. “With the video and pictures I get, I can quickly add to our archives and more easily measure progress or identify any new issues.”

Hunziker has also been approached by his local municipal electric company for assistance in inspecting a potentially dangerous set of power lines. Using a drone in this situation could save time and money, while minimizing safety risks.

But like most others in the building industry who are using drones, Hunziker uses its drone primarily for marketing. And unlike photos that can be edited to hide imperfections, Dodge says aerial footage from a drone that pans the entire property and its surrounding neighborhood paints a complete picture and gives potential buyers more confidence.

In the years to come, the impact drones have on the building industry may increase significantly. With the current pace of advancing technology and evolving government regulations, additional uses such as jobsite security and transporting building materials could be next.

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Comments (2)

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  1. The use of drones in marketing has proven to be a useful advantage.
    Comply with federal regulations.
    Hire the most professional company.
    Out market your competition!
    ONwards and UPwards!

  2. Vince Lupo says:

    I don’t see how the above photo ‘adds’ anything to a marketing strategy or makes that house more attractive to a prospective purchaser. Wow I get to see the roof! I can see the advantages of using a drone, but I’d be interested to see definitive ROI stats demonstrating that those photos in fact increased sales. If that photo above is a prime example, I’m not entirely convinced.

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