Up in the Air
As the leaves swirl around us and our pace quickens, year-end goals come into sharper focus and I marvel at how we keep so many balls in the air. Speaking of what’s up in the air, there is a rapidly-emerging, technologically-enabled species of airborne vehicles that some have referred to as the epicenter of a revolution, and that everyone in the real estate industry would be well served to get up to speed on.
I am referring to unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, which range from toys to tools of industry and war, and are poised to reshape how things in the real estate industry get done. Tasks such as property and construction inspections, evaluation of emergencies and other dangerous situations, and deliveries of merchandise, supplies and construction materials are all about to become safer and more efficient as a result.
To illustrate the potential for widespread commercial drone usage, consider that Walmart, the largest brick and mortar retailer in the world, recently applied to federal regulators for permission to test drones so that it can warehouse, transport and deliver goods more efficiently. Amazon, which recently opened its first brick and mortar bookstore in Seattle, has been testing commercial drone usage since 2013 and has one of the 2000+ federal permits issued since 2012.
The real estate-related accommodations that Walmart and others will require as commercial drone usage becomes widespread will create significant competitive advantages for those who are positioned to benefit from them. Issues to be addressed include insurance coverage, safety and security concerns, rights to privacy, and physical requirements such as roofs that can support vertipads (landing areas for drones) and building dimensions that can accommodate interior drone flights.
For those of us creating the 2020 lease, widespread usage of drones by landlords and tenants alike is just one of the emerging realities we are addressing so that our clients can own, lease, and operate properties that evolve along with the markets they serve.