A glance skyward, or at the latest newscast, can make it seem like drones are everywhere. Farmers, pizza chains, building surveyors and even Disney are using these aerial vehicles to give flight to innovations that are making life that much easier.

But this is just the start. Goldman Sachs has predicted a US$100 billion market opportunity for drones between 2016 and 2020, with businesses and civil-governments expected to fuel a large chunk of the demand.

A big part of that includes real estate and construction, with the sectors expected to pump US$265 million and US$11.2 billion respectively into drone technology over the next few years, according to the global investment bank. Their ability to collect real-time images and submit work orders for building managers; carry out digital building walkthroughs for potential investors and tenants; conduct thermal imaging surveys to improve energy efficiency; and monitor construction progress at height, will only gather momentum.

Add to that they will completely reconfigure the way we design cities, releasing buildings from roads because “we’re probably going to be entering buildings from a roof or balcony,” says designer, Paul Priestman in the documentary Elevation.

However, the real game changer with all this is drones’ ability to collect data, says Adrienne Revai, Chief Operating Officer at JLL Australia.

“Drones are our digital eyes in the sky, and with clever software can turn visual data into insights that can help us create and manage places with more precision and efficiency than ever before, and with machine learning, provide solutions,” she says.

Drones make sense when the risk to humans is high, such as physical inspections in an elevator shaft, but the wide use of drones also comes with concerns around privacy, safety, cybersecurity and electronic waste, as outlined in the report Crossing the Threshold, produced by the RICS and corporate sustainability group Morphosis.

“Drones are just one aspect of the digitalization of real estate we are experiencing right now, transforming the way we manage and interact with cities and buildings, and we should embrace it,” Revai says.

Here are four ways the real estate sector, business and governments are embracing the possibilities of drones right now: