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How to Do a Roof Inspection With a Drone

From a quick check of domestic pipework to commercial property management, it pays to stay one step ahead of damage and carry out regular roof inspections.

Before the rise of drones, these proactive maintenance missions were costly, time-consuming, and, in many cases, needlessly dangerous.

Inspection crews have to scan for problems and assess existing issues to see what repairs are needed. Traditionally, that comes with additional risks and challenges, from causing further damage during the inspection to grappling with poor visibility and struggling to reach inaccessible areas.

Drone technology is simplifying the process. With an eye in the sky, less time can be spent in precarious environments, fewer tools are needed for inspections, and everything is done faster.

Here are a few pointers on carrying out a safe, speedy roof inspection with the help of a drone.

Confirm the end goal

Before any inspection is undertaken, it’s important to clarify the end goal. Depending on the structure at hand, a successful mission might just be a case of snapping a few high-quality aerial photographs.

These images may be enough to determine the condition of the rooftop and what, if any, further steps need to be taken by maintenance crews.

But it may not be that simple. For more complex property management missions, the best use of drone technology may be to gather cloud point data that can be used to build a 3D model of the roof in question. All stakeholders can then share and navigate this model to inspect damaged areas and important structural details.

Alternatively, video might be the way to go. A live feed can be streamed from the drone to give inspection crews on the ground an understanding of the roof’s condition, there and then. Gutters, chimneys and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) units might all require observation from different angles and closer looks, so property management teams may want to be present during the flight to direct operations in real-time.

It goes without saying that each of these inspection types will require a different type of flight. For example, the photos and angles needed to gather data for 3D models are very different from a close-up chimney inspection. The best mission type will depend on the scale of the job.

When flying roof inspection missions for DroneBase, we’ll provide you with a full list of pilot instructions, complete with all the shots you need and tips on how to capture them with speed and precision.

Make the most of autonomous flight modes

Manufacturers like DJI have made getting smooth shots easy with the introduction of autonomous flight modes. Without them, even the most skilled drone pilots would struggle to fly with the accuracy required to gather precise shots for 3D modeling.

As an example, DroneBase pilots often use DJI’s Orbit flight mode to capture oblique images. These images - taken at short intervals while rotating around the point of interest at a fixed altitude, fixed radius, and fixed camera angle - can be stitched together to build detailed 3D models.

Choosing the right drone for the job

By definition, a drone roof inspection will require your drone to be nimble, easy to control, and capable of flying close to a structure without crashing into it. To an extent, how safe that operation is will depend on the skill of the pilot.

But choosing the right drone for the job will go a long way toward improving the safety and precision of the operation.

For data collection, DroneBase pilots use DJI models with high-resolution cameras. Mechanical shutters are preferable for mapping missions, while stability, flight time, and the ability to carry out preset flight paths are also a priority.

We like the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2 and the Mavic 2 Pro. For more advanced mapping missions, you might want to consider a drone with thermal imaging capabilities like the Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual, which can be used to spot anomalies on rooftops and even minor damage to HVAC units.

Making money with your drone has never been easier. If you’d like to take on roof inspection flights for DroneBase, head over to our Pilots page to sign up and find out more.

Tags: Drone Pilots Inspection Property Management
Malek Murison
Malek Murison

Malek Murison is a technology journalist based in London who covers drone industry news and product reviews for DroneLife. He's written features for the Financial Times and works with some of the drone world's most exciting startups.


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