In the commercial real estate
business, brokers who take to the skies have enjoyed an advantage over those
who are earthbound.
First, there were aerial photos
of a development area, then Google Inc. came out with Web-based mapping
functions that could put prospective buyers on the street in front of or behind
a property or give them a view from a more global perspective.
views represent snapshots in time. West Des Moines-based NAI Optimum believes
it is heads above its competitors, at least for the short term, by offering
frequently updated videos that are filmed by a drone outfitted with a
Since January, President Kurt
Mumm and crew at the commercial brokerage have offered clients the ability to
use video to stay abreast of progress in developments or provide a glimpse to
potential buyers of traffic flowing in and out and around a commercial space.
"Everybody we show it to
says it's the coolest thing and wants us to fly by their site or
building," Mumm said. "It's a great way to get a different look at a
piece of property."
NAI Optimum is ahead of other
commercial brokerages in the use of drones, but Mumm doubts that he will be
ahead for long.
"These will be commonplace
in next 12 months," he said. "For now, we're telling people that we
crashed our first one and we were well into the use of our second one before
anyone else in the market thought of getting one."'
Mumm's model costs about $1,300.
Not long after acquiring the drone, which looks like a four-legged bug and
sounds something like a swarm of flies, Mumm was demonstrating it to his son
when a warning light flashed. Mumm decided it was a false alarm. He was wrong.
The drone lost altitude, splashed into the Des Moines River and floated away.
"It's a long, deep sigh when
you see something going wrong and there is nothing you can do about it,"
The idea of using drones as a
commercial real estate service came from RoboFlight Systems LLC, a Denver-based
firm that found an office in Johnston with the help of NAI Optimum.
Matt Lundberg, an NAI Optimum
vice president, worked with the company, which collects data from
GPS-referenced imagery that is gathered by drones, planes and satellites and
provides it to a range of industries, including agriculture, livestock,
environmental, wildlife, utilities and insurance.
Mumm, a fan of remote-controlled
helicopters and "that kind of stuff," was easily convinced that
drones would be useful in the commercial real estate business.
The drone has been in use
marketing Colby Investments' Midtown
Office Park in West Des Moines and a planned development along
Jordan Creek Parkway in West Des Moines. The city of Waukee keeps track of
construction progress on Grand Prairie Parkway via updates from the NAI Optimum
drone. Click here
for NAI Optimum's views from the drone.
"We've sent those videos to
some of these development firms to give them an idea of the lay of the
land," said Dan Dutcher, Waukee's community and economic development
director. In addition to progress on Grand Prairie Parkway, the videos
provide a view of the city's 1,500-acre Kettlestone development area that will
straddle the roadway.
So far as seeking approval from
the Federal Aviation Administration for use of the drone, Mumm said that by
flying under an altitude of 400 feet and steering clear of restricted air
space, he does not need official clearance from the agency.
"It's nice to find a legitimate use for an
expensive hobby," Mumm said