5 Ways Drones are Changing CRE


Turner Levison | September 30, 2017

Drones, we’re told, will change everything. But if you’re reading that sentence and thinking of package drop-offs, pizza delivery, or professional photography, you’re thinking too small. In fact, technology such as drones are already creating seismic change in commercial real estate.

There are five key areas disrupted by drone technology. Understand them and you can leverage them to your advantage. Wait, and you’ll lose a potential edge over your less tech savvy competitors.

Drone use isn’t solely the province of residential real estate. Don’t overlook its potential for commercial real estate

Area Mapping

Whether you’re getting a bird’s-eye view of traffic patterns around an office park or monitoring foot traffic at a pedestrian plaza or retail establishment, drones excel at giving you a wide-angle view that helps you to understand a property.

What’s more, drones can be used to capture higher-resolution imaging than is possible from Google Earth or other commercial satellites; that can be an asset if you’re trying to showcase a property at its best.

Climate Mapping

The changing climate has found another mapping application for drones as well. In coastal areas, floodplains, and other areas prone to environmental impact, drones can map the changes wrought by nature on the landscape over time. That information, in turn, can be invaluable when deciding on how to insure an existing property, and whether to invest or build in certain areas.

Thermal Mapping

HVAC and energy problems are the bane of many commercial realtors’ and property managers’ existence. Drones can be put to good use here as well, since thermal imaging technology can be used to detect HVAC issues, plumbing problems, and potential roof damage. The application, and the data gathered, can also be scaled to larger areas like neighborhoods to determine average energy use and waste.

Gas Sensing

Gas sensing capabilities aren’t widely commercially available. Derived from technology developed for the Mars rover, the gas sensors on drones can monitor for carbon monoxide, methane, radon, and a number of other environmental hazards.

All of this advice comes with one significant caveat: the legal and regulatory restrictions on drone use — like most aspects of commercial real estate — are continually evolving. They were illegal for real estate use in 2014, legal again by 2016, and their status may change yet again. A specialized license is required to operate the drone. Further confusing matters, there are different layers of regulation which vary from one jurisdiction to the next.


We can take a cue from our residential counterparts, using drones indoors to bring a new perspective to the interior of a warehouse, cubicle farm, or office space. However, drones’ imaging capabilities can be put to many uses beyond sales and leasing. Outdoors, it can be useful for property management, giving property managers the chance to monitor issues with landscaping, roofing, siding, facades, and other potential problem areas.

A Thought in Closing

As with any other potential intersection of real estate and the law, do your due diligence first. The National Association of Realtors has a useful sUAS FAQ that covers many of the most common questions, and also links to relevant FAA regulations and documentation.

While CommissionTrac doesn’t use drones to process broker and agent commissions, we can help your commission accounting take flight. Contact us today to find out how!

Subscribe to our weekly updates!