Drones Make Closing Business Deals Easier, More Sustainable

The onset of the COVID-19 in early 2020 wreaked havoc on American businesses, forcing many to shutter their doors.  For prospective buyers, the pandemic also complicated their due diligence efforts:  Sheltered in place, many were unable to survey prospective properties in person but were forced to rely on photographs posted online.  Investors and purchasers became more cautious, and buying and selling slowed.

Goldman Sachs was the first major investment bank to strike upon the ingenious idea of deploying drones equipped with high-powered video cameras to allow prospective buyers to get a closer look at properties of interest.  It worked.  At the height of the pandemic the firm closed 95% of its merger and acquisition deals after conducting remote tours of properties with drones.  And the idea quickly caught on.  A growing number of companies began deploying commercial-grade drones to survey ports, railroads, factories and warehouses to give their clients a virtual view of what they were bidding on.

But like so many drone-powered commercial innovations, the original inspiration didn’t die.  Even after pandemic lock down measures were lifted, and health and safety concerns associated with in-person visits were reduced, investment firms – like companies in the real estate, construction and farming sectors more generally — have begun switching to drones to fulfill more and more of their site surveying needs.

Drones don’t just replace human inspectors; they take building site inspections to new heights and depths.  Drones not only allow viewers to see inside and outside a facility; they can also survey and capture images of difficult-to-reach areas inaccessible to a field survey team.   Some of these areas like roofs or basements might pose an added safety risk.  Moreover, drones can also provide a high-altitude aerial view of sites beyond the scope of ground-level inspections.  And with their 3D modeling capability, drones can also trace the evolution of a site through time, and under different climate or traffic conditions

In-depth drone site inspections may or may not be less costly on the front end, but they do tend to be faster and more comprehensive, so they end up saving money.  But they also have real sustainability benefits.  Not having to fly or drive, prospective buyers greatly reduce the carbon emissions associated with due diligence travel  And battery-powered electric drones leave a small carbon footprint, though some emissions are involved in getting the drone team to the site to operate the drones.

Price Waterhouse Cooper Poland has recently pioneered a virtual due diligence service known as Remote Asset Insights.  Agnieszka Gajewska, a partner at PwC Poland who leads the firm’s Drone Powered Solutions Global Center of Excellence, notes that many properties now on the market aren’t located near airport hubs and would normally require expensive time-consuming car travel to be inspected, which might discourage prospective buyers.  “To buy a property, you have to see the property,” Gajewska told Business Insider last year.

Thanks to drones, the due diligence process is being streamlined across the board, making investment decision-making faster, cheaper and safer – with better data on more properties available to prospective buyers, and with less wear-and-tear on humans and the environment.

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