William Warren

Land Survey Automation Challenge

Land Survey Automation Challenge

Significantly expedite real estate and financing transactions via an efficient, autonomous property survey system.
First submission to meet the requirements will win

Challenge Overview

The Problem

Can you disrupt an industry stuck in the stone age? Tech is sweeping across every single industry, turning traditional business models on their respective heads.

Next up? Land Surveys.

Can you bring drones, satellites, software engineering, or even harness pre-existing data to significantly expedite commercial real estate transactions?

Commercial real estate isn’t a “big” industry -- it’s massive. In fact, go ahead and take a guess.


Try again.

How about $15 trillion per year?

We’re talking global-economy-scale relevance, here.

Unfortunately, the process for completing these transactions is frustratingly antiquated. As a result, the wealth of time, money, and expertise needed is unthinkable.

 A notorious component of successful transaction is the boundary survey. Not only can these surveys take more than a month to complete, but they’re incredibly expensive (some can cost more than $5,000) and need to be conducted on-site.
..by a human.

But what if there was a better way to conduct a successful survey?

What if commercial real estate developers could conduct not just any survey, but an ALTA certified survey remotely, and at a fraction of the current market cost?

By channeling the power of tech, we want to make boundary surveys more accurate, less expensive, and capable of accelerating the process for real estate and real estate financing transactions.

TL;DR: we want a way to automate a full-blown ALTA survey.

Why does this problem exist?

Simply put: no survey, no title insurance. No title insurance, no real estate transaction.

In a world where almost everything else has been optimized, why hasn’t the boundary surveying process been automated? 

Boundary surveys are generally complex, with the ALTA type being particularly intricate. A surveyor has to actually travel to and explore the site, before reviewing title and actually plotting the survey (a process that can easily take more than a month) with title review alone taking 2 to 3 weeks.

Creating a solution capable of doing all this—of highlighting improvements, easements, encroachments, rights-of-way, and the various other elements of land ownership—isn’t for the faint of heart.

 ALTA is also a trade association, offering title insurance and providing licensing rights to surveyors who want to be certified to conduct an ALTA survey. As you might imagine, they’re invested in maintaining the status quo. This can equal pretty serious resistance to new technology perceived as a threat.

These two roadblocks are adding an entire month (at the very least!) to each and every commercial real estate transaction in the United States.

The Challenge Breakthrough

Through the limitless power of tech, our mission is to help commercial real estate modernize as so many other industries have already. We want to bring property development and investment into the 21st century by streamlining one of the most bloated components of any transaction.

What You Can Do To Cause A Breakthrough

  • Click ACCEPT CHALLENGE above to sign up for the challenge
  • Read the Challenge Guidelines to learn about the requirements and rules
  • Share this challenge on social media using the icons above. Show your friends, your family, or anyone you know who has a passion for discovery.
  • Start a conversation in our Forum to join the conversation, ask questions or connect with other innovators.
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Challenge Updates

4 Of The Best Drones for Real Estate Photography

Dec. 14, 2017, midnight PST by Maureen Murtha

Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), are a surprisingly useful tool. Far from being limited to military applications, drones have made a huge impact on a diverse group of commercial industries.

Not the least of those is real estate - photography is the bread and butter of real estate transactions, not only for selling properties but also for documenting them. Drones can take stunning aerial photos and videos, providing a whole new perspective on locations that realtors are trying to sell.

If you're a realtor looking for a modern touch you can add to your pitch, look no further. Drones for real estate come at a wide variety of price points, from several hundred dollars to several thousand. Here are some of the best drones currently being used by real estate agencies, and why you might want to consider them yourself.

DJI Phantom 4 PRO with 4K Camera

Image credit: DJI

Very expensive, but the Phantom 4 PRO by DJI is seen as the best-in-class for aerial real estate photography. And that's good, because it currently costs around $1,500. It's probably the smartest UAV on the market, able to follow the user while avoiding obstacles like trees and power lines.

This latest model is stronger, lighter, and more agile than previous versions, reaching speeds of up to 45mph (72kph). It has 3.1 miles (5km) of range, and can fly for 28 minutes at a stretch.

It can take 4K ultra HD video at 60fps, with a built-in stabilizer for smooth cinematic videos. Burst Mode stills can be taken at 14 fps.

This drone can hover, be controlled by a user, or be sent along a GPS-guided path. There are a number of guidance/camera modes, like Point of Interest, GPS Waypoints, Course Lock, and others. You can even draw a path along a map, and the Phantom 4 will follow the line.

It's great for both amateur and professional high-resolution aerial photography, though it's sensitive to bad weather.

DJI Phantom 3 Standard

Image credit: DJI

A cheaper model in the Phantom line, the Phantom 3 Standard is still a great drone. And since it's an older model, it offers one of the best values for the money you'll spend – around $500, about a third of the price of the Phantom 4. It's easy to use for beginners making it a good option for real estate agencies looking to get started with drones.

The Phantom 3 shoots video in 2.7K, and takes photos in 12MP. It's very stable, with an auto-hover mode that keeps it in place when you're not controlling it. This drone can fly for 25 minutes at a time.

There's are also a few other models of the Phantom 3: the Phantom 3 Professional, the Phantom 3 Advanced, and Phantom 3 4K. Each one has a few of its own unique features, which could be more useful for some realtors.

The Phantom 3 4K, for example, can even fly indoors, allowing you to create incredible guided tours through homes.

Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon

Image credit: Yuneec

The Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon is a larger drone, known for capturing exceptionally smooth videos – it's like a tripod in the sky. It comes ready to fly out of the box, and your purchase can include a sturdy carrying case to hold the drone and accessories.

This UAV can take ultra-HD 4K video, and, unlike other drones, can even capture 1080p/120fps slow-mo video. A 12MP CGO3 camera is included, with a 115-degree wide-angle distortion-free lens that prevents those fish-eye photos.

Another feature setting this drone apart is the SteadyGrip attachment, which lets you hold the drone to take professional-level photos and videos from the ground. Its battery will last for 25 minutes at a time, and you can get two batteries with your purchase.

DJI Inspire 1 v2.0

Image credit: DJI

If you really want to go pro, this might be the option for you. The DJI Inspire 1 v2.0 is a commercial-grade drone, compared to the Phantom 3 and 4 which are consumer drones. This is a serious UAV, so be prepared to pay for it.

Unlike the others above, this quadcopter can be operated by one or two people, depending on your needs. The camera is powerful, capturing 4K video up close or clear HD video from up to 2km away. The four arms can lift up and out of the way, giving you an unobstructed 360-degree view.

The controller includes a tablet that lets you control the drone from a first-person view. You get to see from the perspective of the UAV, rotating and tilting the camera by tapping and dragging. You won't have to wonder if you're taking great video – you'll be able to see it as it happens.

See a similar model in action, the DJI Inspire 2, as it's used to film an action scene:


Drones are fast becoming the go-to choice for serious photography and cinematography. As the tech advances and the costs go down, UAVs will become useful for more purposes. They're already being employed to help sell real estate, but their role in this industry is just getting started.

That's why we're looking for a new way to use drones to speed up commercial real estate transactions, which are infamous for being very time-consuming. The $100,000 Land Survey Automation Challenge is looking for a way to speed up those transactions, by creating a more efficient, autonomous property survey system.

This challenge is currently in the Register for Prototype Phase, and winners of the Concept Phase will be announced in mid-April. So keep your eye on the sky, and be on the lookout for the finalists!

Drone Racing Is A High-Flying Adrenaline Rush

Nov. 14, 2017, midnight PST by Maureen Murtha

Drone racing. It could be coming to an arena near you.

It's gaining popularity incredibly fast – the Aerial Sports League has been around since 2011, the Drone Racing League (DRL) has been in business since 2015, and ESPN even broadcast the 2016 DRL Nationals last year.

If you don't know how it all works yet, drones fly around an arena at breakneck speeds, controlled by “pilots.” The pilots get a first-person-view from the drone streamed into a pair of goggles they wear, letting them control the craft as if they were actually flying in a cockpit.

It's a pretty incredible sight, because these drones can sometimes exceed speeds of 120mph. But they don't often reach those speeds, because they're usually too busy banking, diving, and spinning through the amazing courses designed to test the skill and endurance of the pilots.

Zooming Through a Futuristic Drone Racing Arena

Some drone racing arenas are fantastic. The courses are three dimensional (because drones can fly up and down) and full of psychedelic neon lights, shapes, and obstacles. They often take place in sports stadiums, though they can also be found in underground caverns, and, more frequently, in dedicated arenas of their own.

Other times the races take place in simpler settings, without a full-blown pre-staged arena. You can host a drone race in a field, a construction site, a garage – anywhere you have enough room (as long as you steer clear of unaware bystanders).

For most people drone racing is still a hobby, rather than a money-making opportunity. But that's set to change soon. Allianz, a major name in broadcasting involved in Formula 1 racing and many other sports, will be sponsoring the DRL 2017 championship. Drone racing could well become one of the most popular sports in the world, potentially beginning to rival the fame of eSports.

Eventually, drone racing broadcasts could include a set of goggles for the viewer, letting you see the race from the perspective of the drones themselves. The sport would become even more exciting, giving fans a way to experience the race in totally new ways.

While there isn't a lot of money in drones for the average enthusiast right now, there are still some large cash prizes to be won at some of these tournaments. If you want to see what a full-fledged championship drone race looks like, check out the final race of the World Drone Prix 2016, held in Dubai. The $250,000 first prize was won by 15-year-old Luke Bannister, beating out 150 other teams.

An Expanding New Realm of Sport

The world of drone sports has even more to offer. It's not just racing, there are also – drone fights!

You might already know about the robot battles that have been taking place for a while. But drones are getting in on the action too, and actually have been for quite a few years now.

The Aerial Sports League even has a “drone combat” category, which features drones bashing into each other until only one is left flying. There are one-on-one fights, and also big battle royales which involve many drones competing in the same arena in the aptly-named “Game of Drones.”

It isn't the most exciting sport to watch yet, but if you imagine what might come as people experiment and innovate, this could turn into a very cool sport (maybe we'll see drones with paintball guns attached, or electric zappers?).

It sounds like a very expensive way to have fun – purposefully breaking costly aircraft – but these drones are built for battle, and the damage is usually to the cheap rotors which can be quickly replaced.


It's a good time to be a drone enthusiast. If you want to get in on the racing action but you don't have a drone yourself, you can try out the free DRL Racing Simulator. You can race your friends through real courses, and participate in global competitions.

As fun as drones can be, they're even more valuable when it comes to business and commercial purposes. We think they could help out big time in the $100,000 Land Survey Automation Challenge, a global competition to create a more efficient way to conduct property surveys. Drones can be programmed to conduct these surveys, saving an incredible amount of time, money, and labor.

The winners of the Concept Phase of the challenge will be announced soon, so be sure to keep an eye on the challenge for upcoming developments!

UPDATE: Challenge to Stay Open Until Winner Found

Oct. 16, 2017, 2:11 p.m. PDT by Maureen Murtha

Hello Community!

Thanks for the sustained interest in the Land Survey Automation Challenge. We appreciate you and your enthusiasm!

The William Warren Group did not receive any qualified submissions to the recent Prototype Phase of the competition.  We know we have some of the top innovators working on this challenge, so our best guess is that the challenge was too audacious for the current state of technology. So we would like to allow you to participate without the burden of a time limit!

As a result of this, we will be leaving the challenge open until a winner is found.

This is good news! If anyone has a solution moving forward, they may submit anytime.

Questions? Comments? Please leave them in the comment section below! 

Want to know what ideas were submitted in the Concept Phase?

May 7, 2017, 9:34 p.m. PDT by Kyla Jeffrey

Check out all of the entries, including those from our six winners, here: https://herox.com/AiLTA/entries

This is also a great way to find that key teammember you are looking for! Comment directly on their submission or click on their image to go to their profile and send a private message.




We Have the Winners for the Concept Phase!

April 25, 2017, noon PDT by Maureen Murtha

The long wait is finally over, and we're excited to announce the Concept Phase winners. We know you're excited to find out if you're on the list, but first (while we have a captive audience) a few additional items.

Big Thanks

On behalf of HeroX and the William Warren Group, we want to extend a HUGE thanks to everyone in this crowdsourcing community. Congrats to you -- because winning aside, you're all pretty awesome just for being involved. 

Prototype Phase

With this announcement of these winners, we also mark the official launch of the Prototype Phase, which is open to everyone, regardless of whether they took part in the Concept Phase. That means even if you didn't submit this round, you still have an opportunity to compete! 

We've also made some important revisions to the challenge, including giving you more time to develop your prototype and removing the discovery of historical documents from your overall time and automation goals. Read about the changes here.



Interested in joining forces for this next phase? We've got a great way for you to do that. You can check out the competitors who entered the Concept Phase right here and see if you have the skills they're looking for. See if anybody is speaking your language (in some cases literally), and you might have a powerful team in the making!  If you'd like to start a conversation, the Forum remains an excellent resource for getting to know each other. (Psst. there's already a couple of people looking for a coder...in case you're interested, you can contact them here.)



Concept Phase Winners

The Vreeland Institute - $5,000

  • Aerial Land Survey System - ALSS: Our Aerial Land Survey System (ALSS) provides a comprehensive solution to the challenge of integrating the benefits of unmanned aircraft systems with the practice of land surveying, to add value to traditional fieldwork, while maintaining the highest standards of the profession.

J K - $5,000

  • ATLAS - ALTA Transitional Land Assessment System: Combinatorial use of novel RTK GPS/IMU/ laser angular measurement drones remotely controlled with automated document search and synthesis
  • Willing to merge with another team and looking for expertise in selected technology/capablity providers for drone platforms, remote ctl, image tools. Contact Here.

3 Alarm Mapping - $5,000

  • UAV, 360 GPS Cameras, & AI to improve ALTAs : Create orthomosaic photo of a property from a UAVs and 360 cameras then process the photos using AI to recognize features on the photo which leads to a decrease field collection time and drafting time which saves time and money but still being in the field to comply with the local laws.
  • Willing to welcome another individual onto their team with expertise in deep learning AI programming and photo stitching algorithms programming. Contact Here.

Vũ Quang Thành - $2,500

Jeremy Martinez - $ 2,500

  • Drone-Assisted Intelligent Land (DAIL) Surveying: The DAIL Survey decreases the time and cost of land surveys by using advanced imaging technology to analyze data collected by a remote-controlled drone. Reference discs placed on the ground at desired intervals capture the land contour, while artificial intelligence software produces the map/plat.
  • Willing to welcome a team member with expertise in programming using the IBM Watson Developer Cloud, electrical engineering, imaging and data-mapping. Contact Here.

Chad Balauro - $2,500

  • Centroid: Making land data and attributes available in a single open platform to those involve in real estate transactions wound eventually create automation in an assembly manner.
  • Looking for expertise in PLS, Legal, Python, web technologies, Java, Computer vision, machine learning, deep learning and ai. Contact Here.


And just like that, the Concept Phase comes to a close. Thanks again for your efforts, support, and interest in the Land Survey Automation Challenge. We can't wait to see all of your submissions in the next phase! 


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