Growing retail businesses, big box locations and shopping centers benefit significantly from regular ongoing retail facility maintenance, including preventative maintenance and inspections. A facility manager is usually doing this kind of maintenance, ensuring that the facilities used in businesses run smoothly on a day-to-day basis. Knowing the condition of the property, including the building envelope and roof, can save time and money when expensive repairs can be caught early. In the past this has involved many man hours to check the entire roof and upper portions (think those decorative towers on malls). Unmanned aerial vehicles or drones are beginning to play an integral part in increasing efficiency in some industries, and that includes retail facility maintenance surveys.

Facilities team are starting to create best practices and new ways to safely and legally use drones to do site surveys of malls, shopping centers and big box retail stores. Technology is Neat! If you’re new to the drone technology, here are some reasons why it’s important in retail facility maintenance.

Increases Cost Efficiency Of Business Operations

Using a drone for your retail facility maintenance surveys will help your business save money. Retail facilities are usually big, and they require a lot of manpower to ensure that each facility is inspected.

Take, for example, roof maintenance. It’s an activity that’s not only time consuming, it also increases the chance of work-related accidents happening. If you have a drone, you can quickly survey the roof and check for repairs. You don’t just save time, you’ll also save money, as you can do roof maintenance more frequently. Some portions of the facade can also be hard to see/inspect without renting lifts, scaffolding, or getting out a ladder.

The time you saved inspecting the roof could be done doing other tasks. While the mere use of drones could not fix the problem, it can help you spot it immediately.

Better Implementation Of Health And Safety Procedures

Part of retail facility management is ensuring that the business is safe and can adequately protect employees and customers. A facilities manager is responsible for ensuring that safety and health procedures are being observed.

Using a drone to aid in this kind of work can help reduce workplace hazards. Here are some other factors to consider when assessing the safety of your facility:

  • Fire hazards – If your retail store handles chemical or flammable materials, you have to make sure that your fire safety procedure is efficient. A drone could help map out the whole building and provide you with strategic exit points, safe gathering locations and more.
  • Visual inspection – Consistent visual inspection is necessary as you need to make sure that no hazard is present. In large buildings, like a warehouse or distribution center, spills on the floor can cause an employee or a customer to slip, or unnecessary clutter could block the fire exits. These things could easily be spotted when you have an aerial view of the whole facility, and drones may help with a shift by shift assessment.
  • Crime Prevention – Parking lot crimes can be frequent in retail facilities especially when it’s dark. In the future security officers may use drones along with your surveillance cameras to regularly monitor potential criminal activities.

Strategic Planning

More than inspection and maintenance, a drone could also be used to create strategic plans for your retail facility. For example, garbage disposal needs careful planning, especially if your retail facility also caters to food establishments. Your drone could map out the area, provide data and help you create a proper garbage disposal schedule.

Another area wherein your drone could be proven useful is when you’re looking to expand your business. A drone can map out the potential property and provide you an aerial view of the surroundings.


FAA Regulations On Commercial Drones

Technology innovation in retail is vital as this helps improve customer experience and retention. However, implementing technologies like drones can be a bit difficult if you don’t know what government regulations to observe.

On August 2016, the FAA authorized the use of commercial drones by companies even without applying for a permit. This is as long as the drone is less than 55 lbs and does not fly faster than 100 m/ph. However, there are still limitations to be observed such as the following:

  • Drone flies within 400 feet from where the pilot is located
  • Flies only during daylight
  • Should not be flown over people (this is problematic in a busy shopping center and will need to be addressed in future legislation)
  • Remains within visual sight of the pilot
  • Will not carry hazardous items

Furthermore, the operator needs to possess a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate and go through a background check with the Transportation Security Administration. The Federal Aviation Administration administers the Remote Pilot Airman Certificate.

The test costs $150, and you must get a score of at least 70% on the 60-question test to be eligible for the certificate. However, some state and counties in the U.S. may require additional requirements for commercially used drones, so be sure to consult a lawyer before flying one.


Ensuring that your facilities are in good condition and are regularly inspected can help alleviate operational costs. While drones aren’t able to help in all situations yet, there may be areas that hiring a drone service on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis to inspect hard to reach or large areas will save you money and time already. Drone work may also be done in the future by individuals who are not able to physically climb a ladder or get in a lift, allowing for a more diverse workforce. Investing in a drone can significantly help your facilities team in making the workplace safe and secured.

Author Bio-

Edward Flanagan is the founder of Edward’s Enterprises, a handyman service & licensed general contractor that has been improving homes and providing facilities maintenance in Southern California since 1996. Their retail maintenance services include laminate cashwrap repairs, plumbing services, and retail store remodeling. Edward currently divides his time between Camarillo and Venice Beach, CA, and loves the 405.