By Chad Conley, Complete Roofing

Roof inspections for large structures can be difficult, risky, and expensive. Unlike structures built many years ago, new construction often has unique and complex roofing designs. Regardless of the shape or size of the roof, roofers still need a safe way of inspecting these buildings. This is where new drone technology in the roofing industry comes into play.

Traditional roof inspections come with many hazards for the people tasked with climbing on the roof. However, the use of drones in the roofing industry has greatly improved safety, inspection times, and has helped lower costs.

Even with the many advantages of using drones in the roofing industry most roofing businesses have yet to take advantage of this technology. Some roofers still hold to the idea that nothing beats having boots on the roof for inspections. Let’s look at why this statement is becoming untrue as drone technology continues to improve.

Improves Worker Safety

Roofers using drone technology can get an overall view of the condition of the roof without ever having to step foot on the it. They stand firmly on the ground, fly the drone over the house or other structure, take photos and video, then land the drone back down. Using a drone to safely inspect a property takes only a few minutes. The use of drones by roofers also reduces liability and the possibility of a lawsuit if something dangerous happens like a roofer falling off or through a roof.

When roofers get on the jobsite to inspect a roof, they usually are alone or in small teams. Setting up ladders on unstable ground to inspect an eave is an unsafe situation. Even roofing veterans are at risk of falls, and without a team to spot the ladders the potential for falls increases.

Often, roofs in need of inspection are in rough shape due to storms or erosion over the years. Using a drone to inspect the structure before anyone puts boots on the roof allows roofers to identify weak spots without jeopardizing safety.

The average size of homes has increased over the past decade. All buildings — residential and commercial — are bigger now than they were in the past. Just think, 30 years ago there were no Super Wal-Marts or mega stores. So, a drone gives the operator the ability to limit the exposure of a normal inspection by narrowing the inspector’s scope prior to climbing. Maybe he or she has a question regarding a specific detail near a precarious point on the roof. That question may be answered without having to traverse the rest of roof.

Report and Share Data

The software available for capturing drone data eliminates the need for guesswork and remeasuring. When needed, drone software can create diagrams using the photos it has taken to calculate estimates and bids for a roofing project. The creation of detailed blueprints takes less time giving customers a higher level of confidence that the job is being done right. 

Drones don’t only take 2-D images of the roof. Roofers can use drones to examine other factors of roofs such as ridges, peaks, pitch, and valleys for an exact measurement to find the total square footage. Often these areas are difficult to reach to measure accurately. The collection of information on gutters, windows and walls can also take place.

Better Workflow

Drones are great for smoothing out workflows and scheduling of events. Let’s use measurements by drone as an example. The drone can gather the data needed for estimating a roof in a fraction of the time required by a roof climber. In climates that experience more inclement weather, this pick-up in efficiency is money in the bank. Days can be strategically planned for gathering immense amounts of data that, in turn, can be processed when weather isn’t friendly to accessing roofs. Furthermore, roofs can still be inspected when they’re still wet, after the active rainfall, but while they’re still too dangerous to traverse on foot. Without drones, the time is lost while the roofer waits for the roof to dry out, weather to pass, and so on. 

Show the Homeowner Their Roof

Climbing on a roof is a difficult task for professionals let alone homeowners who have no experience walking on roofs. Homeowners also don’t really know what to look for if they do climb up on the roof to look for damage. Roofing businesses using drones can supply a better overall view of the roof and any damage to homeowners. 

Before drones, homeowners had to rely on pictures and descriptions provided by the roofing company. Now, drones can take high-resolution photos and video from high above so the homeowners can see the entire roof and what areas have damage. This technology provides homeowners a better understanding of the need for repairs. With a better understanding of the state of their roof, homeowners can feel confident they are spending their money in the right place and know exactly what they are paying for.

The largest benefit gained from drones in this regard is context obtained by inspecting with a drone. For example, you’re inspecting a roof on foot. If it’s a 45-degree pitch, or 12/12, then your eyes are never more than about arm’s length from the roof’s surface. This means important greater context is often lost. Not all roof slopes can be seen in their entirety and inspecting a 12/12 by foot means it still isn’t seen in one shot. 

The greater context gained by using the drone depends on the situation, but in insurance claims works we sometimes find that vandalism is the cause for damage and not storms. We can tell by the pattern of the damage. Someone creating damage by hand usually hits the easy to reach places. These types of damages are often created by dishonest roofers trying to make a claim where there wasn’t one to be had. If you’re coming behind that bad apple’s inspection, you’ll find this kind of stuff. However, if you’re too close to the subject matter you may not pick up on this pattern of damage.

Save Time and Money

Traditional roof inspecting methods require roofers to set up ladders, take extensive measurements and assess roofing conditions. Measurements often need to be taken more than once for accuracy. This information is then translated to draft an estimate for the homeowner or business owner.

When using drone technology, roofers can use the images taken by the drone-mounted camera to create a more accurate estimate in less time. The time and resources the roofer saves by using drones means lower costs for both the customer and the roofing business. At Complete Roofing we pay for our entire drone program from these savings alone.

Drones Can Reduce Insurance Costs

Due to common risks associated with roof inspections, the workers, equipment, and structure require insurance against damage and accidents. Since many workers are often required on jobsites, insurance costs can be high, resulting in reduced revenue for the business. Drones reduce the insurance needed for workers and equipment since they have fewer risks on the job.

Drones also eliminate the need to follow many health and safety regulations required by OSHA and other organizations. These requirements, when it comes to roofers, are often required when sending workers up on roofs for inspections. For example roofers having to wear harnesses above 4 feet off the ground, tying off ladders, etc. There’s obviously no need to tie off if the worker doesn’t leave the ground.

Before any work takes place, jobsites need inspection for any potential safety issues. To perform these inspections, regulations require a check on workers to confirm they are in good health and can do the job properly. The use of drones eliminates the need for these tests as well as extensive insurance plans for the workers.

As drone technology continues to improve, more roofing companies are adding these tools to their arsenal. By using drones roofers can lower costs, as well as reduce risks to employees, business owners and homeowners. Although the work on roofs needs to be completed by traditional methods, drones help save time and create a better experience for the customer. l

Chad Conley is the CEO of Complete Roofing in Woodstock, Georgia. Complete Roofing has provided metro Atlanta homeowners with insurance quotes inspections and roofing repairs for over 14 years.