Why drones are chang­ing the mar­ket

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

would be pos­si­ble from re­ly­ing on old­school ground-level pho­to­graphs or in shots taken from the up­stairs win­dow of a house. The length of a gar­den, for ex­am­ple, or where out­build­ings are in re­la­tion to a main house can all be much clearer from a pic­ture or video taken 200ft up. Key for buy­ers to re­mem­ber, how­ever, is that a drone is a mar­ket­ing tool used by agents on be­half of sell­ers, and its pho­to­graphs and videos may not nec­es­sar­ily show the whole pic­ture. “One has to be care­ful to en­sure that scruffy neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties are ex­cluded,” ad­mits An­drew Proc­ter of Hunters agency in Skip­ton, York­shire. Cameron Ewer of Sav­ills’ Glas­gow of­fice agrees, adding that in­creas­ingly agents must be vig­i­lant of what gets picked up in the images. If the wider land­scape is not as beau­ti­ful as the house that is for sale, “you could pick up a wind farm, py­lons, car­a­van sites and land­fill sites away in the dis­tance, which you wouldn’t or­di­nar­ily see”. Nev­er­the­less, the mar­ket­ing po­ten­tial for sim­ple drone tech­nol­ogy is hugely im­pres­sive. “Our in­ter­na­tional clients find drone footage ex­tremely use­ful if they’re un­able to visit a prop­erty,” says John Fisher of an­other agency, Sotheby’s In­ter­na­tional Realty. Now drones are in­creas­ingly be­ing used for other prop­erty-re­lated pur­poses, too, in­clud­ing sur­vey­ing build­ings or for giv­ing quotes. They can be used to check the qual­ity of a roof from above, for ex­am­ple, sav­ing the cost and de­lay of in­stalling scaf­fold­ing, or avoid­ing the dan­ger of climb­ing on the roof.

They are par­tic­u­larly handy for restora­tion and her­itage projects, to as­sess dam­age to carv­ings and roofs. Some drones also have ther­mal imag­ing cam­eras, which can help iden­tify draughts and im­prove en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

Drones are also be­ing used to cre­ate 3D mod­els of homes. One drone, the Par­rot Be­bop-Pro, was able to do this by cir­cling a house for three min­utes. It took 80 pho­tos and pre­cise mea­sure­ments, with 4in pre­ci­sion, en­abling it to cre­ate an ac­cu­rate 3D model of the house, which was then used to add a back ex­ten­sion.

They are also be­ing used for a wide range of agricultural pur­poses. “We can scan an area and see if it’s had dif­fer­ent types of pes­ti­cide used on it,” ex­plains Alex Dod­man, who runs Saf­fron Drones, one of the coun­try’s lead­ing drone oper­a­tions.

He cre­ates pro­fes­sional videos not only for house sales, pub­lic events, wed­dings and cor­po­rate pro­mo­tions, but also han­dles agricultural work in­clud­ing 2D and 3D crop map­ping, achieved by the use of in­frared sig­nals sent from a drone. “We’re work­ing with quite a lot of vine­yards now, too, for which we can mon­i­tor crop growth and health,” he says.

Dod­man has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence of op­er­at­ing drones, and has a Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity li­cence that was granted af­ter three days of train­ing and writ­ing a 40page doc­u­ment out­lin­ing how he pro­posed to use his de­vices.

Per­haps un­der­stand­ably he is scep­ti­cal of some es­tate agents with cheap drones – you can pick one up for around £60 – and lit­tle aware­ness of the grow­ing rules sur­round­ing this tech­nol­ogy. CAA reg­u­la­tions for drones with cam­eras say they must fly below 400ft, and not within 164ft of peo­ple, ve­hi­cles or cer­tain build­ings with­out writ­ten con­sent from the coun­cil. They must also avoid busy ar­eas such as shop­ping streets, mu­sic con­certs or sport­ing events.

The re­spon­si­ble agents, of course, have des­ig­nated staff mem­bers with CAA li­cences us­ing more so­phis­ti­cated de­vices with higher-spec cam­eras, sta­bilis­ers and even ther­mal im­age ca­pa­bil­i­ties. As a re­sult they pro­duce much finer-qual­ity pic­tures and smoother videos with less er­ratic jud­der, which is a key dif­fer­en­tia­tor be­tween cheap and ex­pen­sive drones.

Some ad­ven­tur­ous agents over­seas are now us­ing drones in­side. They are up­dat­ing the old “fly through” fea­ture that ap­peared on prop­erty de­tails on­line; pre­vi­ously an es­tate agent would hold a cam­era as they walked room-to­room, but now that is done by drones where ceil­ing heights al­low and when the op­er­a­tor can ma­noeu­vre in con­fined spa­ces.

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