The Drone Debate Should Drones Take to the Skies at Your Co-op or Condo?

Drones. Everyone has heard of them. No one is sure what to make of them. Are they destined to be the scourge of the skies? Or are they simply a brilliant convenience that will allow regular folks to complete everyday tasks from the comfort of their computers? While the jury is still out, and will likely remain so for some time, some co-op denizens are already enthusiastically rooting for the latter when it comes to routine property surveillance.

Glen Oaks Village is a garden apartment co-op complex aptly located in Glen Oaks, an area in northeast Queens. According to the official website, the property was built in 1947, shortly after World War II to help fill a void of affordable housing for returning infantrymen. Originally a rental housing complex, it was converted to co-op in 1981. Per its board president Bob Friedrich, it’s the largest community of its kind in New York, consisting of 134 two- or three-story buildings spread over 110 acres. This means 2,904 garden-style apartments, 1,337 indoor garages, many more private outdoor parking spaces, two lighted tennis courts, a three-wall outdoor bocce court, and six playgrounds. This kind of sprawl can make simple tasks, like inspecting gutters for leaf blockage or checking for chimney and roof damage, nearly herculean, as workers need to ascend and descend ladders nearly a thousand times to properly canvass such a massive communal property.

Technobot

Not one to be satisfied with the status quo, Friedrich surmised that there had to be a better way. Figuring that he could use technology to minimize both risk and labor, in 2015, he rallied both his co-op board and maintenance committee to invest in a drone—well within their budget at a seemingly reasonable $1,000—to take some of the burden off workers’ shoulders. And maintenance tasks have gotten a bit easier at Glen Oaks ever since adopting that majestic and metallic eye in the sky.

“It’s been fantastic,” enthuses Friedrich. “We fly the drone above the roof line, and we can go building by building to check gutters. We might find that out of 134 buildings, only 16 have leaf blockage, and thus we only need to send men up to that small portion of the property for maintenance, rather than cover the entire community.” For the less mathematically inclined out there, that’s only about 12% of the buildings that would need a human being to scale a ladder and thereby risk life and limb, which is by no means insignificant.

In addition to reducing safety concerns, Glen Oaks Village’s drone has proven to be cost-effective as well. “When you have 134 buildings, you have 134 chimneys,” Friedrich explains. “The only way to check how the concrete is faring at the capping involves climbing up with scaffolding. Most co-ops rarely even check their chimneys. But now we can do everything with the drone, and it eliminates that scaffolding expense.”

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