July 19, 2019
By Paul Bubny
Flying a drone is effectively prohibited in New York City, notwithstanding a 2016 rule from the Federal Aviation Administration legalizing commercial drone use. Two City Council members would like see that change, and so would the city’s commercial real estate sector.
However, the bills introduced by Council Members Justin Brannan and Paul Vallone have been stalled in committee for the past 18 months. Therefore, the law of the land as far as drone use is concerned is a 1948 statute that requires that all aircraft take off and land in a location designated for flight by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—namely, the city’s two airports.
“The laws on the books are not written for these new, disruptive technologies,” Carlo Scissura, president and chief executive of the New York Building Congress, told the Wall Street Journal. “The cities that are doing this will always have a leg up on us.”
Scissura told the WSJ he’s joining forces with real-estate leaders and drone-industry executives to lobby city officials to amend the law, which they consider to be overly broad and out of date.
For owners and developers, drone use offers plenty of potential for expanding capabilities while saving considerable time and money. Take inspections, for example. These usually entail putting up scaffolding across nearly the entire building, and sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars and months of time into the process.
By contrast, drone manufacturer PrecisionHawk charges an average of $3,000 for a building inspection via drone, the firm’s Diana Cooper told the WSJ. And instead of taking months, the job can be done in a matter of hours. It can also reduce the need for inspectors to climb to precarious heights.
“It’s long been our feeling that it would enable buildings to save a tremendous amount of money if inspection of facades could be done with drones with cameras,” Mary Ann Rothman, executive director of the New York City Council of Cooperatives and Condominiums, told the WSJ.
The process of site selection and inspection could also be accelerated by having a drone with a camera do the job, rather than a group of company executives who presumably have other things to do. That’s a welcome option for both developers and corporate tenants.
Then, there’s marketing and promotion. CRE brokers as well as owners and developers have taken advantage of a drone camera’s ability to provide an aerial perspective that a low-flying helicopter can’t duplicate. More than zeroing in on a building, a drone camera can also provide an in-depth survey of the neighborhood.
For example, CBRE recently used video to market the Michelson, a Class A office tower in Irvine, CA, featuring a drone’s eye view of the property and its surroundings, illustrated with animated maps.
“4K drone footage has taken marketing video to a level it couldn’t have achieved before,” said Daniel Ceniceros, CEO of Connect Media, whose Connect CREative arm produced the CBRE marketing piece.
In terms of the safety concerns associated with operating drones in populated areas, Ceniceros noted that operators must undergo testing and certification by the FAA, and follow the appropriate FAA regulations while piloting the drone. “It isn’t as though you’re a kid flying a remote-control plane in your backyard,” he said.
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