For a potential investor or commercial site selector, it's like walking a property while wearing a jet pack.
Want to check close up for cracks in the facade of an office building — at the 29th floor? Price Edwards & Co. has made it doable.
Want to see the layout of space around columns in a warehouse, for considering inventory management — from the 30-foot clear-height ceiling? Not a problem.
Price Edwards has its own drone.
The payload? Speed and efficiency for property brokers and clients — and high-definition video and photography of land and buildings literally like no one has ever seen.
The drone, technically a small quadrocopter by DJI Innovations armed with a GoPro video camera, is able to capture a range of views not seeable from either the ground or with traditional aerial photography from a helicopter.
Phil Jackson, Price Edwards' chief information officer, said he saw one in March in Austin, Texas, at South by Southwest, the annual film-music-technology confab.
“I thought, you know, that could have some applications in real estate,” he said.
Before long, he was back in Oklahoma, learning how to fly the quadrocopter. He flies it using Fat Shark interactive goggles, so he sees what the camera sees.
“Guys who dress up at Star Trek conventions think these are geeky. That's how geeky they are,” he said of the glasses.
It looks fun. But it's meant to enhance business.
“We use it mainly to take site survey types of pictures or to display property at unique angles or unique ways that aerials or still ground photography doesn't let you get,” Jackson said.
Craig Tucker, managing broker, said he'd already had a client ask if the mini flier could be used to video inside an office building. Answer: Yes.
Jackson explained the advantages of the drone video — once edited by Marcie Price, graphic designer — over aerial photography and video.
“Aerials are dated, often, so you don't get the most up-to-date pictures. They're usually also top-down, so you don't get anything but roofs and things like that. This allows you to get right up next to a building or retail center. You can see things around. You can get an idea of where you're at. You can see highways. You can see cars moving,” he said.
Getting video to a client is as fast as email, but that last part, especially, perhaps, to a retail site selector, is more important than might be obvious. Retail investors, marketers and managers are interested in more than land and structures. Surrounding community matters.
Broker Mark Patton said the bird's-eye view of streets and activity around a property can be the deciding factor in a deal.
“It had traffic moving,” he said of a video clip he recently sent to an out-of-state investor. “That's huge. It's not static. It's changed the site search process. It's revolutionary for site searches.”
And that's without a gimbal, a device to keep the drone and its camera balanced to the horizon — and reduce the effect of the Oklahoma wind. Jackson said that will be Price Edwards' next investment in the technology arms race.
It is a race, and Price Edwards intends to stay in the lead, with its in-house technology staff, said managing partner Ford Price.
It's unusual, he said, for a realty firm not to outsource the kinds of things Jackson works on improving every day. Price said the firm regularly takes time to concentrate solely on information technology and how the latest advances can be used to improve its work for its clients.
For all the bells and whistles — and the four little rotors and lights on what looks like a tiny space ship — the property transaction is still the main deal, Jackson said.
“It allows us to go out on a moment's notice and grab some video, edit it and upload it to a client within a few hours. Aerials don't allow you to do this,” he said. “And because it's not outsourced, it's all in-house, we do it really quick and get a quick turnaround for our clients and get deals done quicker.
“We've had a lot of clients wowed by it. Most people have never seen anything like this or knew something like this exists.”