Drone inspection of a building – How effective is a drone roof survey?

Drone roof inspections are becoming more and more popular as a means of capturing data at height or in areas difficult to access. There are a huge number of benefits to utilising drone technology in building surveys. But, is the data sufficient enough for a surveyor to report on and instruct works? In this blog we discuss how drones are being used to provide accurate data for building inspections, the level of detailed data drones can capture and at what cost.

Aerial image from a Drone Inspection of a Primary School
Drone roof inspection of a Primary School

Drone Roof Inspections – Early technology

When drones first emerged it was ground breaking to take aerial images and/or aerial video of a roof. Drones were used to reach places that other equipment such as cherry pickers and cranes were unable to access. Still Images of gutters and church spires were able to detect cracks in structures and missing slates. It would allow the surveyor the opportunity to see a roof close up, without having to actually go onto the roof. The utilisation of drone roof inspections meant surveyors could have access to data faster and at a fraction of the cost.

Prior to drone technology, there were fewer options to inspect a building. Options may have included scaffolding, cranes or cherry pickers. Trained staff would be required to operate the machinery, often making it a costly exercise. The emergence of drone inspections meant one licensed drone pilot could capture all the relevant images quickly and effectively. CAA regulations dictating who, where, when, how and what drones you could fly however could make it tricky to fly in congested areas. Like other new markets though these rules are constantly evolving and there are, in our opinion, less restrictions that affect our ability to achieve an effective drone survey than there were 5 years ago. As licensed pilots with an Operational Authorisation from the CAA, we are able to fly in areas that others are not.

Current technology

Whilst aerial images of buildings are an effective way of capturing building data, drone technology has moved on since then. At Drone Scotland we still supply drone inspections with images and video, but we now utilise specialist software to help obtain more detailed data. This can include measurements, elevations, point clouds and even 3d models of buildings. 3D models are particularly useful for Building Surveyors to be able to zoom in and around a building to check roof and elevations. Each section of the building contains hundreds of points in a cloud we’ve created using our software. The result is highly accurate images and measurements that allow the end user to zoom in and see cracks and defects of the building.

What level of detail can a Drone Inspection capture?

Not unlike other trades, this of course can depend on the skill of the professional and the equipment he/she uses. At Drone Scotland we have been carrying out Drone Inspections for the last 4 years. To ensure we provide clear images and videos for our clients, we use different drones and other camera equipment for different jobs. It’s not uncommon for us to also deploy more than one drone for one building. We use smaller drones for more congested areas, telescopic poles for areas where we don’t have line of sight of the drone, and larger drones as and when the environment is right.

But no matter what equipment we deploy there is one thing our drone inspections all have in common – they always show clear views of building roofs and elevations. Details we capture include the state of gutters, detection of cracked/missing slates, cracks on elevations and damage to Church spires. We also utilise state of the art software which can convert our point clouds into a 3d model of your building. This is particularly useful for our clients to share with their building contractors. But most of all our clients absolutely LOVE a 3d model of their building. It’s really quite cool!

One thing we always make clear is that we are not surveyors nor do not pretend to be. At Drone Scotland we simply capture the data for our clients and allow them to make an assessment of the building and instruct works themselves. As such we have developed great working relationships with a number of Building consultancy businesses across Scotland. We are known for providing highly accurate data in a timely manner.

Drone roof inspection including slate area
Drone Building inspection – Drone Scotland

Why use a drone over traditional methods

There are a number of arguments for using drones to capture building inspections over more traditional methods such as Cherry Pickers, Cranes and Steeplejacks. Drones are not the solution to all building inspections however they can offer an excellent alternative. PWC recently reported a client trial project demonstrated cost savings of 65% and an 83% reduction in the time taken to inspect. Although a considerably larger scale project, feedback from our clients at Drone Scotland is very similar. Here are some of the benefits we hear from our clients.

  • Faster turnaround – A drone inspection can be completed in a few days
  • Less disruption – There is no need for closures of pavements and roads which is timely and costly
  • Drone flights offer a lower carbon alternative to diesel powered equipment. (At Drone Scotland we also use solar panels to charge our drone batteries and other equipment)
  • More cost effective – Drone inspections generally cost less than the hire of equipment and personnel
  • Real time data – At Drone Scotland we offer clients the opportunity to watch the drone inspection live using our VR goggles. They can instruct us to inspect areas closer if required.
  • Data sharing – Once captured, the data files are downloaded and shared with the client and shared amongst all parties involved in the repair and/or insurance of a building.
Drone building inspection of a flat roof
Drone inspection image – Flat roof with moss

Cost of a drone roof inspection

The cost of a drone roof inspection can vary depending on the size and complexity of the building. Your Drone Pilot will have to take into consideration a number of factors such as:-

  • The size of the building? The larger the building the more time a survey will take.
  • The number of roofs on the building (for example traditional churches will have several roofs and a spire/s)?
  • Does the building fall into a FRZ (Flight restricted zone)? This will require more pre-flight planning and can produce delays on the day of the survey
  • Are there birds nesting on the building or nearby? Birds don’t like drones and they pose a danger to the drone and vice versa. Any flights near birds need to be planned very carefully to avoid issues
  • Is the building in a congested area? Flying in a congested area will often require a team of 2 for safety reasons. It may also take longer to complete an inspection as people and vehicles can cause delays in take off/landing of the drone.

From our research of the market, commercial drone roof inspections generally start from £450 depending on all the factors above.

For further information on how Drone Scotland can help with your Drone Inspection please get in touch with us at construction@dronescotland.com

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