How drone technology, products and services are impacting home life and local communities, and why homeowners should care.

Drone manufacturers are propelling the market upward as they continue to develop new functionality, while decreasing pricing to consumer-friendly levels. Concurrently, homeowners are recognizing a number of applications for drones, which is fueling increased adoption.

As homeowners have been driving the enthusiasm for drones – also referred to as Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) – this has prompted federal, state and local governments to enact legislation that protects privacy and other concerns.

In this article we explore how drone technology will be impacting home life and local communities in the coming years and why homeowners should care.

What is a Drone?

A drone is defined as an unmanned, powered aircraft that sustains flight through remote operation, autonomous control, or some combination of the two. Early usage, as far back as 1917, was attributed to the military, as full-sized, unmanned, monoplanes responded to commands that were issued via ground radio.

Today these remotely controlled, pilotless, aerial vehicles span a range from inexpensive toys for children to high-end, multifunctional models costing thousands of dollars. Competition among the many drone manufacturers is creating global awareness, expanding usage across industries and fostering a favorable environment for consumers, as the market is being flooded with higher-end models at lower price points.

Recent Drone Legislation

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), enforcer of drone regulations, granted new exemptions for companies to operate drones in 2015, causing global shipments for UASs used in business operations to explode. The growth has been unprecedented and is currently increasing at a 66.8% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR).

In 2016, the FAA further helped fuel the growth of the drone market by creating a regulatory framework with its consumer drone registry. New legislation for businesses, granting them line-of-sight requirements and approval for flight-over-humans, invigorated the industry, as enthusiasts began to find new applications for the technology. As interest grew, especially amongst hobbyists and recreational users, states realized that legislation for protecting consumers’ rights to privacy was imminent.

Over 1.2 million recreational drones are currently registered with the FAA, as they continue to gain widespread appeal, including for homeowners and property owners, as UAVs can be used in a myriad of ways to help buy, sell, manage, protect and enjoy real estate investments.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NACL), there are currently over 17 states that have introduced bills regarding drone usage for the 2021-2022 legislative session to weigh the benefits over privacy concerns.

Current Drone Usage for Homeowners

A surge in drone sales over the last twelve months, can be attributed to the fact that drone usage has clearly moved beyond its military and industrial origins to become a powerful tool for both small businesses and recreational users. Business Insider Intelligence reports that consumer drone shipments will reach 29 million by the end of 2021. The drone services market is expected to grow to over $60 billion by 2025, from $4.4 billion in 2018. The FAA has forecasted a 300% increase in commercial drones from 2019 to 2023.

Today, drones represent a multibillion dollar opportunity for home and property owners across the following service categories:

  • Insurance
  • Real Estate Videography & Photography
  • Property Inspections & Maintenance
  • Parcel Deliveries
  • Home Security
  • Emergency Situations
  • Construction

Insurance

Drones are becoming essential for claims management, as they reduce physical risk to the assessors, provide immediate visual access to hard-to-reach areas of a house, and speed up the claims process. Data captured by drones also can be used to identify moisture pockets in roofs using thermal imaging, detect gas leaks, calculate wildfire risk, and more.

Crawford

Crawford has been leveraging drone technology as part of their suite of claims processing services provided to their insurance carrier clients. Drone Insurance Claims Inspections are especially a critical tool to use in the aftermath of disasters like Hurricane Irma, to get visual documentation necessary to expedite process claims quickly.

This drone video of Hurricane Irma damage that was collected by Crawford’s subsidiary WeGoLook in Cudjoe Key, Florida.


 

Real Estate Videography & Photography

The bottom line about using drone video and photography to market your home is that drone footage can always make a house and property more interesting if well produced. Though luxury homes with larger parcels of land are now expected to provide aerial perspectives, drones can also deliver emotional experiences for even the most modest of properties.

Specifically, smaller drones, like the DJI Mavic Mini, can be used to provide grand aerial views, as well as intimate interior footage that make for a lasting impression. The video below, by A1Bokeh, is a perfect example of adroitly presenting a home to feel uniquely special and memorable.

We strongly recommend hiring a professional and seeking referrals from your real estate agent. Keep in mind that you may encounter experienced photographers that are resistant to using drones. If so, keep looking, as your home deserves to be presented in an entertaining and dramatic fashion.

Video courtesy of A1Bokeh.


 

Property Inspections & Maintenance

Drones are especially well-suited to conduct roof inspections that may be inaccessible for several reasons, such as: dangerous weather conditions; overly steep pitch; structure instability; or too high to reach by ladder. Drone roof inspections are quicker, safer and easier than traditional methods and can provide access to hard-to-see areas behind chimneys or parapet walls.

When combined with thermal imaging infrared cameras, drones can also be used to detect moisture and leaks, as well provide thermal inspections of your entire home to improve your overall energy efficiency. Anyone providing professional thermal inspections should be an ITC Certified Thermographer.

Thermal imaging can also help find locations of pests inside a home, such as the attic and inside walls. The key is that the animal or insects must produce enough heat that propagates to a surface in order to be detected. This technology, for example, has worked well to detect large bee and wasp nests inside walls.

Enterprise-level drone kits also exist to detect gas leaks quickly and safely. The gas detection kit from Viper Drones comes equipped with a FLIR G300 Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) camera.


 

Parcel Deliveries

With Amazon’s exploration into the drone delivery space starting many years ago, most homeowners think of home delivery first when contemplating residential uses for drones. The number of startups pursuing residential delivery certainly confirms the popularity.

Though progress is certainly being made, the residential market for drone delivery is still nascent, with a small footprint of live programs in various parts of the globe. Based on early partnerships, the delivery of medical prescriptions from nationwide chains like Walgreens, Walmart and CVS will likely fuel adoption among the elderly.

Amazon Prime Air

Though Amazon has been a pioneer in the use of drones for package delivery since they began testing in 2013, they still speak in the future tense when describing capabilities for Amazon Prime Air on their website. Their goal has been to deliver packages up to 5 pounds within 30 minutes, with their testing efforts occurring at Prime Air development centers in the US, the UK, Austria, France and Israel. Amazon received FAA approval in August, 2020 to operate its Prime Air drone package delivery service to customers.


 

Flytrex

Flytrex provides a complete delivery solution, using automated drones, aimed at helping retailers, ecommerce websites, restaurants and delivery companies to achieve ultra-fast deliveries, in addition to expanding business to hard-to-reach areas. Their drones have payload capacity ranging from 1 lb. to 6.6 lbs. with a range of approximately 6 miles. Flytrex is proactively addressing privacy concerns by not using cameras at all.

A creative example of their capability is their test program at King’s Walk Golf Course in North Dakota. Their solution delivers snacks and refreshments to the exact location of golfers throughout the golf course, replacing the traditional roaming beverage cart with on-demand service. This VIP service is touted as being faster, safer, cheaper and greener.

Their test program in Reykjavik, Iceland, which delivers prepared foods, groceries and other goods, is proving out an urban use-case of hard-to-reach locations due to bodies of water and traffic congestion. Flytrex also initiated a partnership with Walmart in September, 2020 in Fayetteville, NC to provide drone deliveries to backyards.


 

UPS Flight Forward

UPS Flight Forward is the world’s first drone airline, due to receiving full Part 135 certification from the FAA. They are the first company to be permitted to fly commercial drone deliveries outside the visual line of sight, which opens a lot of opportunity for more innovative types of service and benefits⁠. Rapid transport of life-saving medical supplies likely will be at the top of its list of drone delivery services.

UPS Flight Forward partnered with CVS in 2020 to deliver prescription medicines to The Villages, Florida, which is the largest U.S. retirement community, having over 135,000 residents. UPS Flight Forward has a strategic partnership with Matternet for use of their drone aircraft.


 

Wing

Wing, an Alphabet company (Google’s parent), can deliver small packages, including food, medicine and household items, directly to homes within minutes. Wing was the first company to receive Air Carrier certification from the FAA. Since its creation in 2012, the company has conducted more than 100,000 flights across three countries (Australia, Finland and the United States).

Their mission has been to improve the way local communities operate by reducing road congestion and creating economic opportunities for local businesses. They currently have partnerships with FedEx Express and Walgreens.


 

Home Security

Autonomous response drone systems have been used for several years to help monitor and protect critical infrastructure for large companies with valuable assets, such as manufacturers, power companies, and military installations. It’s only a matter of time before features available with commercial drone security services, begin to expand into residential markets. Easy Aerial, FlytBase and Nightingale Security are examples of capabilities serving a wide-range of industry applications. Currently Sunflower has been the early pioneer for residential drone-based security.

Sunflower

Sunflower’s system is designed for larger residential properties which are more difficult to secure and protect using traditional stationary camera systems. The system consists of a base station (Hive), an autonomous surveillance drone (Bee) and multiple ground sensors (Sunflowers) used to detect intrusions by intelligently sensing motion and vibration. The drone can cover approximately 4 acres of land.

Sunflower’s first systems are expected to ship to customers by mid-2021. The Sunflower autonomous system is designed to work within the current regulatory framework but the firm expects regulations to open up further to allow expanded uses of the system. They also plan to offer additional installation options for the hive base unit, such as roof mounts.


 

Ring Drone

Last September, Amazon’s Ring announced its “Always Home Cam”, an indoor security drone providing “next-level indoor security” in the form of a small, indoor autonomous drone. A primary purpose of the flying indoor camera is to provide flexible visibility when you’re not home, such as checking on concerns like if the oven has been left on or if a door has been left opened. Though not yet available to purchase, it is expected to sell for $250 sometime in early 2021.

The new product, however, has received some skepticism, with opinions hinting that the drone might just be a “flashy and cool” way of doing something that can already be an existing and conventional system. For example, it is possible to purchase a decent indoor security camera for as little as $25, which would equate to approximately 10 security cameras for the price of one Ring drone. Concerns over privacy issues have also been vocal.


 

Emergency Situations

Due to the many inherent utility of drones (live video feeds, two-way communication, speed, unobstructed traffic routes, thermal heat sensors, etc.), they are naturally well-suited to provide invaluable assistance during emergency situations.

For example, several pioneers in the drone delivery space have focused more on the delivery of urgently needed medical supplies, including post-disaster response efforts. The drone industry at large will certainly benefit from innovations that arise to handle more challenging circumstances, such as reliably operating during inclement weather conditions, through rugged terrain and dangerous circumstances.

DJI Drone Rescue Map

DJI (Da-Jiang Innovations), besides being the leading drone manufacturer in the US, with nearly 80% of the market, DJI has maintained a worldwide Drone Rescue Map since June 2020. The first recorded drone rescue occurred in 2013. To date the map has accounted for 560 rescued individuals. The site states that “drones have found missing people, brought supplies to trapped survivors, peered through smoke and darkness to find unconscious victims”.


 

Easy Aerial

Though Easy Aerial is primarily a security company with solutions for highly advanced perimeter fence security, they also provide an easy-to-use mobile solution for first responders to monitor live events, such as fires, natural disasters and situations of civil unrest.


 

Zipline

Founded in 2014, Zipline’s tagline is “Vital, On-Demand Delivery for the World”, which underscores their focus on providing “instant access” to lifesaving medical supplies. They describe their regional service centers as part medical warehouse and part drone airport. Each distribution center can make hundreds of deliveries each day to any point within a 50-mile radius area. To date they have completed over 100,000 commercial deliveries. Their solutions are designed for scale and for challenging real-world conditions.


 

Construction

Drones can be used at the start of a construction project to capture aerial images and capture data for making surveys, topographical maps, and 2D & 3D models. Since drones use GPS readings, the data captured is highly accurate and faster than data collected by ground crews. Construction design software is now able to incorporate drone footage to produce more accurate maps and designs for new construction sites.

Drones can also be used throughout any construction project or repair job to confirm progress, quality and completion of work, as well assisting with the permit inspection process.


 

Future Drone Usage

As drone use among homeowners proliferates, a number of future use-case scenarios come to mind that will improve quality of life and benefit owners of real estate property. Safety and fast medical assistance are recurring themes that will become more pertinent with a growing population of elderly citizens.

Medical Emergency First Responder

Already in the works at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, the Ambulance Drone is designed with two-way communication, compartments with advanced first-aid kits, and therapeutics such as Nitroglycerin. The idea is to have the ambulance drone arrive ahead of the actual motor ambulance, and allow someone near the victim to administer aid, while being given instruction by a qualified medical professional.

In instances such as cardiac arrest, or toxic poisoning, seconds matter and the quicker aid is rendered, the better the outcome. The Delft project has plans to integrate the Ambulance Drones into existing ambulance response networks.


 

Exterior Cleaning: Windows, Siding, Solar Panels & Roofs

Exterior building and window cleaning drones have been in service for skyscrapers and other high-altitude buildings for a few years now, by companies such as Aerones, Lucid and Robotron. Though the residential market is still nascent, this technology will likely be adopted by service providers and homeowners for homes with multiple stories, difficult accessibility, such as hillsides, and hard-to-reach solar panels.

Lucid


 

Firefighting

The same drone technology used to wash exterior walls and windows could have great benefit for homeowners as a low cost, first responder “firefighter”. Since exterior wash drones can be connected to a water source, the endless stream of water can be used to douse or contain the conflagration until the fire department arrives.


 

Pollination of Plants

Scientists have noted the decline of bee populations as society moves toward more advanced communication technologies with high-frequency magnetic fields. Though studies on the harmful effects of 5G on honey bee navigation are still not closer to a definitive conclusion, biological and behavioral changes in bee populations have been documented.

Ironically, Bee Colony Collapse Disorder is being fought with a technology all its own: miniature small drones which operate like honey bees. A team at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan has engineered a “pollen-like” substance that when paired with “pollination drones” can help pollinate crops as efficiently and effectively as honey bees.

Tiny drones with the ability of “insect” flight, such as dragonflies, are currently being developed in labs around the world. Although this work is far from being used in the field, it is showing promise on how to manage a future with fewer bees. One example is a team at Delft University of Technology who has made progress with APIS, the Pollinator Drone.


 

Community Drones

As awareness of the many uses for drones grows, we envision more homeowners getting involved to influence further adoption within their local communities. The first step is to inquire with local entities to find out if they have drones and how they are using them. Here are local organizations of the community to consider reaching out to:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Fire Prevention
  • Local Power Companies
  • Hospitals
  • Schools for Security
  • Building Code Councils for Inspections & Permits
  • HOA’s for Community Security & Property Inspections

 

Additional Drone Resources

What Home Owners Need to Know About Drone Use in Home Construction
Should Your HOA Use Drones to Catch Violators in the Act?
Ultimate List of Drone Stats for 2021
Pleasant Pastime or Privacy Peril? Piloting Drones in HOA Communities
Using Drones for Real Estate: Benefits, Use Cases and ROI
The 10 Best Drones You Can Buy
RoboBees: Autonomous Flying Microrobots

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