Why the Real Estate Industry Is Interested in Drones, Too

They're quickly changing the art of visualizing buildings.

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Neoscape

In this halting, vertigo-inducing video, you can watch a couple of guys from the creative agency Neoscape toy with their newly built drone, outfitted off the Boston Inner Harbor with a GoPro camera:

That footage captures a test flight for a modest but intriguing advance in architectural rendering and real estate marketing: drone's-eye views of new project sites. In the video, there's a construction site (and temporary car lot) in the foreground of that gray, mid-rise building. Neoscape ultimately used the drone footage it collected here to produce surrounding scenery and accurate aerial views – from a vantage point over the water – for the composite rendering of what will go on that construction site, shown above and here:

Neoscape

Those gleaming blue luxury condos aren't yet complete. But when they are, likely next year, the scene will look an awful lot like what you see in that picture. Studios like Neoscape more often have to rent helicopters or climb cranes – both expensive propositions – to complete architectural renderings or produce the kind of glossy marketing material that could give a prospective tenant a sense of his 20th-story view.

A camera-equipped drone, on the other hand, might gather these images or video more easily, not to mention cheaply.

"Every decade or every year or every day, there’s something new that people want look at, that everyone wants to do," says Carlos Cristerna, an associate principal and the director of visualization at Neoscape. "It seems like these days, drones are the thing."

He adds, though, that they're not exactly a fad. "There are two sides of it," he says. "There's the practical side of it, and there's the eye-candy side of it."

Neoscape, an agency that focuses on the real estate market, built this drone as part hobby, part R&D. Creative studios around the world are starting to apply drones to the visualization of real estate, too. They're primarily used to survey sites where construction hasn't yet begun. That's because, as with the above image, a new development needs to be rendered within the context of all of the stuff around it.

In the video below, Neoscape consulted on drone footage shot by Soderling & Associates of a planned development in Bellevue, Washington. Neoscape stabilized the footage and composited the 3D rendering into it:

It's easy to envision further applications once new developments are complete, or with existing real estate on the market. Imagine if you could request from a developer video tours of the actual views from a penthouse apartment or corner office.

Admittedly, these are not the ground-breaking drone applications that will monitor environmental disasters or shifting coastlines or breaking news events from above. But, in the hyper-competitive world of real estate, people like Cristerna are trying to push the boundaries of how they portray buildings in the same way that developers and architects have to innovate, too.

"The industry that we work on, it’s all about visuals," he says. "It’s all about the emotion of what people feel when they see what we do. So it needs to be pleasing, exciting, and it depends on the product – if it's residential, you need to feel you want to be there. The lighting needs to be just perfect. It's like when you see TV commercials for something, and you want it."

All images courtesy of Neoscape.

About the Author

  • Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific StandardGOODThe Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.