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One of the many uses to which drones are ideally suited is roof inspections, for the obvious reason that they can easily gain a bird’s eye view of rooftops. With an aerial perspective and a good camera, drones can quickly record visual data on the condition of a roof’s structure and materials, at a fraction of the time and cost required by manual methods, and without requiring anyone to be put in a dangerous situation. When equipped with a thermal camera, the drone can obtain data on heat loss, providing information that is virtually impossible to achieve in any other way.
Traditional methods of roof inspection typically include putting a person on top of a roof, usually accessed by a ladder. This method of inspection can be dangerous and time-consuming, often requiring specialized equipment such as safety harnesses. With drones, the need for manual inspections is eliminated, by allowing for full, high-quality inspections without requiring a human to ever leave the ground. Roof inspections routinely need to be carried out by roofer or contractors employed to repair or replace roofs, to assess the amount of work that needs to be done and provide accurate estimates in less time. Time and man-hour savings adds up to lower costs both for the roofing company and the customer. Other instances requiring roof inspections are real estate transactions, or in damage assessment for insurance purposes. In the latter instance when a roof has been damaged by a storm or tree limbs, the roof is not safe to access on foot, in which case the safety benefit of inspection by drone is unbeatable. Insurance adjusters or others can easily deploy a drone to get a full picture of the damage and repairs that need to be done. Also important in this process is the documentation of all damages, which is easily made possible with the high-quality images provided by roof inspection drones. In real estate inspections, often prospective buyers want a detailed and accurate picture of the state of the roof, including detecting possible leaks or insulation problems. This type of information is easy to gather with the use of thermal cameras, that can help pinpoint any areas of concern. Roof inspections are also a routine part of maintenance of commercial properties, where thermal images are especially key to locating areas of potential problems with heat loss, to ensure that they are dealt with at an early stage to prevent costly repairs down the road.
Aerial surveying technology provides high-quality, geotagged images that can be processed with mapping software programs to create 3D maps or cloud points. These virtual environments are extremely useful for commercial building renovations and reconstruction projects, or even for residential reroofing projects. With a 3D map available of the existing building and roof structure, the process of planning and redesigning for the new roof structure is simplified and streamlined. Gathering this data is really only possible with the technology and perspective made possible through aerial surveying.
Two good entry level drones for roof inspections are the Parrot ANAFI work drone and the Parrot Bebop-Pro Thermal drone. The ANAFI work provides basic, good quality visual imagery, suitable for mapping software. The Bebop-Pro Thermal provides both thermal and visual imagery. Just a step up from there are the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise or the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual, the main difference between the two being that the dual also houses a thermal sensor. This drone series boasts safe and easy flight modes with enhanced safety features, powerful zoom capabilities and GPS time stamping to ensure time and location accuracy. Another great option for roof inspections is the Phantom 4 RTK drone. The RTK module is built into the Phantom 4 RTK, and provides real-time, centimeter-level positioning ensuring improved accuracy on image metadata, while requiring fewer ground control points. When equipped with the Zenmuse XT2, you have a powerhouse machine for high-quality visual and thermal imagery. Another strong option for roof inspections is the Matrice 210 V2 RTK that can deliver centimeter-level precision for inspections that require the maximum possible precision. When extended continuous flight time is a priority for the job, a fixed-wing drone such as the senseFly eBee X might be the best fit. The eBee X is compatible with a range of sensors, including the senseFly S.O.D.A., the S.O.D.A. 3D, and the Aeria X. The S.O.D.A. captures amazingly sharp aerial images, across most light conditions. These images can then be used to produce detailed, vivid orthomosaics and ultra-accurate 3D digital surface models. The senseFly S.O.D.A. 3D is one step up from the S.O.D.A. in that it changes orientation during flight to capture three images (2 oblique, 1 nadir) for a much wider field of view. It is compatible with Pix4Dmapper, for quick, robust image processing. The senseFly Aeria X is a drone photogrammetry powerhouse, with the added advantage of offering outstanding image detail and clarity in almost all light conditions.