A GAME OF DRONES

THE USE OF IN REAL ES­TATE is on the rise – but there are a few in­surance mat­ters agents need to con­sider, says Sharon Fox-Slater of EBM’s Ren­tCover.

Elite Property Manager - - FRONT PAGE - SHARON FOX-SLATER is the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of EBM’s Ren­tCover. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit ren­tcover.com.au.

AC­CORD­ING TO A RE­PORT FROM QBE, ONE IN 50 DRONES CRASH.

A VIS­UAL RECORD OF THE STATE OF A PROP­ERTY CAP­TURED WITH DRONE PHO­TOS AND VIDEO CAN HELP A PROP­ERTY MAN­AGER EX­PLAIN THE NEED FOR RE­PAIRS AND MAIN­TE­NANCE.

It wasn’t long ago that drones were de­vel­oped only for mil­i­tary pur­poses. To­day, re­motely pi­loted air­craft sys­tems (RPAS), or un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles (UAVs), are main­stream and flocks can be seen flying over lo­cal parks and beaches ev­ery week­end.But it’s not only en­thu­si­as­tic fam­i­lies tak­ing to the skies; real es­tate agents have been quick to adopt the tech­nol­ogy.

When the first com­mer­cial drones came on the scene, early adopter agents hired pro­fes­sional drone op­er­a­tors to pro­duce im­pres­sive fly­overs and fly-throughs to help sell prop­erty. Dra­matic cam­era drone pho­tog­ra­phy and video tours took on­line list­ings to a new level.

Call­ing in the pros is still the best way to get im­pres­sive footage with all the bells and whis­tles, like 3D maps, graphic over­lays, com­men­tary and mu­sic. How­ever, if an agent is en­gag­ing a com­mer­cial drone op­er­a­tor, they should be prop­erly li­censed/qual­i­fied, ex­pe­ri­enced, aware of the reg­u­la­tions and lo­cal re­quire­ments, and ad­e­quately in­sured (pub­lic li­a­bil­ity is a must).

In 2016, the Civil Avi­a­tion Safety Author­ity (CASA) re­laxed reg­u­la­tions around com­mer­cial drone use which has meant that agents (or their con­trac­tors) have been able to op­er­ate cer­tain types of drones them­selves.

To­day it is easy for an agent to pro­duce cost-ef­fec­tive im­agery us­ing drones pi­loted un­der the ‘ex­cluded’ cat­e­gory. This ap­plies to any RPAS de­vice un­der 2kg and flown for com­mer­cial rea­sons, sub­ject to a num­ber of con­di­tions such as only flying dur­ing the day, no­ti­fy­ing CASA be­fore­hand, flying less than 120m above ground level and not within 30m of peo­ple or 5.5km of con­trolled airspace.

‘Com­mer­cial us­age’ refers to use other than for sport or recre­ation, so would in­clude all the uses an agent would have for flying a drone. Any­one who flies a com­mer­cial drone not in the ‘ex­cluded’ cat­e­gory (for ex­am­ple, weigh­ing more than 2kg), still re­quires a UAV Op­er­a­tor’s Cer­tifi­cate and Re­mote Pi­lot Li­cence.

“WE HAVE LIFT-OFF”

Cur­rently the most pop­u­lar real es­tate use for drones is in mar­ket­ing prop­erty. Just a few years ago, the only way to cap­ture qual­ity aerial im­agery was to hire a photographer us­ing a he­li­copter or light air­craft, mak­ing it cost-pro­hib­i­tive for all but the most ex­clu­sive list­ings.

To­day, aerial pho­tog­ra­phy and video is adding an edge to prop­erty sales and mar­ket­ing, with agents us­ing drones to of­fer po­ten­tial buy­ers or ten­ants new an­gles on prop­er­ties and the sur­round­ing ar­eas to bet­ter tell the ‘life­style’ story. Footage show­cas­ing and high­light­ing ma­jor sell­ing points like land­scap­ing, out­door fea­tures or vast acreage can make it eas­ier to sell or lease a prop­erty.

The fea­tures of a home can also be high­lighted very quickly with a qual­ity vir­tual tour rather than still pho­to­graphs and try­ing to de­scribe it all in lengthy text. Cap­tur­ing im­agery, of­ten over­layed with dis­tances and so on, can also give sub­stance to claims that the prop­erty is ‘close to schools, shops, parks, pub­lic trans­port, play­grounds and med­i­cal cen­tres…’.

There is also a grow­ing use of drones to con­duct in­spec­tions. Drones can get a close-up look at as­pects of a prop­erty that may other­wise be in­ac­ces­si­ble or ex­pen­sive to sur­vey. Send­ing a drone to in­spect a roof, chim­ney, fence line, sky­light, high-rise win­dow or bal­cony, or trees over­hang­ing a home, is of­ten a far safer op­tion too and avoids the sig­nif­i­cant re­sources, plan­ning, time and costs re­quired to ar­range for the in­spec­tions to be con­ducted man­u­ally.

Com­mer­cial drones can also be fit­ted with tech tools to pro­vide a more thor­ough in­spec­tion. For ex­am­ple, ther­mal imag­ing cam­eras can be fit­ted to de­tect in­su­la­tion prob­lems, roof leaks or even HVAC/air-con prob­lems in the ducts. The use of a hi-def cam­era can also gather ev­i­dence of de­fects, which can then be an­a­lysed by a prop­erty man­ager, build­ing in­spec­tor or tech­ni­cal spe­cial­ist.

A vis­ual record of a prop­erty cap­tured with drone pho­tos and video can also help a prop­erty man­ager ex­plain the need for re­pairs and main­te­nance to an owner or body cor­po­rate. The footage can also be used to doc­u­ment dam­age from storms or fires to as­sist with in­surance claims.

“HOUS­TON, WE HAVE A PROB­LEM”

As with all tech­nol­ogy, flying a com­mer­cial drone comes with its own set of risks. First and fore­most is the risk of ac­ci­dent and third-party li­a­bil­ity. Each time a drone is launched into the skies there is a risk of col­li­sion or crash. Even a 2kg drone can in­flict a lot of dam­age – and the drone op­er­a­tor or owner will be held legally re­spon­si­ble for dam­age or in­jury.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port from QBE, one in 50 drones crash. This equates to one crash oc­cur­ring for ap­prox­i­mately ev­ery 2,000 hours of op­er­a­tion. QBE claims data also shows crash rates are dou­bling ev­ery year.

An­other fac­tor that drone op­er­a­tors need to take into con­sid­er­a­tion is pri­vacy. They should check whether they need per­mis­sion from own­ers for flying over pri­vate prop­erty, or coun­cil ap­proval for flying over parks and pub­lic streets.

Im­por­tantly, as drones are used for sur­veil­lance or data col­lec­tion, they are gen­er­ally fit­ted with cam­eras and/or video recorders and sen­sors, which means they could in­ad­ver­tently breach pri­vacy laws.

The col­lec­tion of footage could re­sult in a pri­vacy vi­o­la­tion if that footage is used in an ad, broad­cast or tele­cast – and there have been some prime ex­am­ples of this hap­pen­ing in the real es­tate in­dus­try. A cou­ple of years back, a woman from Mt Martha was snapped sun­bak­ing top­less in her back­yard by a drone and the pic­ture ap­peared on the sales board of the mil­lion­dol­lar prop­erty next door. With pri­vacy a grow­ing con­cern, th­ese kinds of breaches could have se­ri­ous ram­i­fi­ca­tions – fi­nan­cial and rep­u­ta­tional – for agents.

THE TAKE-OUT BE­FORE TAKE-OFF

If you are go­ing to use drones in your busi­ness, you should make sure that you have in­surance that specif­i­cally cov­ers their use. There are now ded­i­cated RPAS poli­cies avail­able to agents and their con­trac­tors to cover the risks unique to drone op­er­a­tion; your in­surance bro­ker should be able to point you in the right di­rec­tion. Armed with the right in­surance cover, agents can ‘re­lease the drones’ and take their busi­ness to new heights! ■ Our ad­vice about in­surance is pro­vided for your gen­eral in­for­ma­tion and does not take into ac­count your in­di­vid­ual needs. You should read the Prod­uct Dis­clo­sure State­ment and Pol­icy Word­ing prior to mak­ing a de­ci­sion; th­ese can be ob­tained di­rectly from EBM.

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