Calling A Drone Strike On Your Tenants

2014-06-21

Calling A Drone Strike On Your Tenants

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently legally required to formulate laws allowing and supporting the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in domestic airspace by September 2015. Cutting-edge companies like Amazon are already exploring programs that will enable them to take advantage by using ‘drone delivery’ for light packages to addresses near warehouses. So let’s talk about how this technology could help us property managers.

Eye in the Sky
Have you ever wondered if you could somehow get access to real-time satellite imagery of your properties? The answer, of course, is no unless you’ve got military-grade clearance. But once you have the ability to call your own drone strike with eyes in the sky getting high-resolution, panoramic, live feeds of your properties, you won’t need to daydream about spy satellites again.

The most obvious impact is that you wouldn’t need to personally visit each of your properties every few weeks. If someone called you to report suspicious activity, of course, you would want to, but in general, a UAV flyover will show you the most important details and could be programmed to be done every day, with images and recordings saved automatically to Dropbox for your review as needed.

For special events like the arrival of a landscaping crew, pool maintenance, or other scheduled process, having a UAV in the sky over the property at the time can tell you instantly if they’re there when they said that would be and how efficiently they’re getting to work. How valuable would that be?

More Exotic Uses
Imagine how your job could be different if you could schedule a contractor to come in and do some work inside of a home to prepare it for rental — and you could deliver the key to the workmen via drone. Ideally, the drone could either plug itself in or use solar panels to recharge while the work is done, and at the end of the day they could lock up and give the key back to the drone to be delivered back to your office, all without any intervention on your part.

The Downsides
Of course, the future isn’t all so bright you’ve gotta wear shades. Drones will almost certainly be prohibitively expensive at first — and even after they become commonplace (probably a year or two at least), they’ll still require high-level expertise to debug, diagnose, and repair. Most likely, you’ll have to send them back to their maker at a decent cost in both time and money.

There’s also the problem of privacy. Part of what the FAA is expected to define is the question of what privacy even means in this context. Clearly, there are already some rules in place — things that go on inside your domicile are considered private, for example — but there are a lot of questions as well. Can you send a drone to a property you own and have it peer in the windows? If a drone malfunctions and lands in someone’s yard, are they within their rights to treat it as a violation of privacy and have it (or at least the data on it) destroyed?

The actual utility of UAVs will change dramatically based on the answers to these questions and more — but it’s something each of us should be keeping an eye on.

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