Drones are making a big buzz in American skies and they have the potential to be a valuable tool in construction and real estate development. They’re currently being used to capture aerial images and video for marketing materials, document construction progress and offer a bird’s eye view of assets.
Craig Guillot, principal and drone operator at NOLA Aerials, says drones offer a whole new world of imagery, bridging the gap between traditional aerial and land-based photography. Drones can fly anywhere from a few feet off a building to 400 feet in the air to offer low altitude visual access to buildings and property.
“I can put a camera virtually anywhere and shoot anything from any angle without leaving the ground,” he says. “Drones make aerial imagery accessible to provide high quality marketing collateral, precise documentation and actionable data for decision makers.”
Guillot uses a groundstation monitor that allows him and his clients to see exactly what the camera sees in real-time. NOLA Aerials offers high-resolution aerial photos and video tours for real estate developers and construction companies. He says the ability to capture oblique aerial images and have a camera fly around a property allows owners and investors to view assets and location from a whole new perspective.
Drones, more properly called “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” run the gamut from $100 toys to multimillion dollar machines used by the Department of Defense. Most consumer-grade and “prosumer” machines are under two feet in diameter and run from $500 to $3,000.
Guillot has logged hundreds of flights and says while flying a drone isn’t “rocket science,” it does take skill and practice. Most machines have GPS guidance systems but he says there’s a learning curve to dealing with wind, obstructions and orientation. The operator has to be able to safely fly the drone, but also maintain and calibrate equipment, perform preflight checks and know how to navigate for the right photo angles.
Drones also allow developers and construction managers to obtain frequent progress photography for documentation during all stages of development. They can also be used for rough visual inspections of high buildings or inaccessible areas.
Guillot is planning to acquire another machine in late-2015 and expand his services to include aerial mapping with 2D survey-grade measurements and 3D volumetrics.
“The technology is exploding and the industry is just in its infancy. Drones will become an essential tool in construction and real estate development,” he says.