Inspecting your building envelope and roof is no easy feat. The taller your building, the more dangerous
it is to gain access to the upper levels.
Plus, the time-consuming nature of the
work makes it expensive, especially if
you have to send multiple inspectors
to the roof. But a new technology is
changing the way facilities professionals inspect roofs and envelopes. Could a
drone be the next member of your facilities team?
How They Work
Most commonly used for surveillance,
exploration and remote sensing, these
unmanned aerial vehicles let you inspect
your roof or envelope from the safety
of the ground, taking high-resolution
photographs and getting closer to damaged areas than a human worker can.
Inspections are completed in a fraction
of the time it would take for a small
crew to do the same work.
“Using a drone is a lot faster and
safer,” explains Jose Vasquez, Civil
Engineer and Project Manager for GCI
Consultants, a building envelope consult-
ing firm. “You’re going to have a better
understanding if you’re examining things
yourself, but sometimes that’s compli-
cated. If the roof is damaged, there’s a
chance that you could fall through. With
Depending on the inspection com-
pany, the drone may just take photos
for later examination by an expert or
deliver raw data to an analytics platform
that will turn it into an actionable report.
The drone mapping software provider
DroneDeploy, for example, uses an app
to plan and initiate the drone’s flight
and cloud-based software to process
the data with an algorithm that detects
edges, mounting planes and obstruc-
tions to create a highly accurate model
of the roof.
“Facilities managers are often just
making sure their buildings are operating
as designed – to make sure there aren’t
any leaks, cracks or issues on the roof,”
explains Nicolas Guerra-Mondragon,
Business Development Director for
DroneDeploy. “Instead of having to go
up on the roof for inspection, you can
capture everything and get imagery that
Whether you’re adding a drone fleet
to your facilities team or contracting with an inspection firm, the drone
should be operated by a certified pilot,
advises Vasquez. These aren’t the light-weight versions you might find at a toy
store – they’re heavy and have to follow
“Safety is the biggest concern while
we’re flying drones,” says Vasquez.
“You might think a drone looks like a toy,
but it's a heavy flying object and can fall
on someone or their property. You’re not
supposed to fly it around anyone, and
make sure you’re not flying it in con-
trolled airspace because you could have
a plane or helicopter fly by, hit the drone
and damage both.”
Don’t try to conduct a detailed inspec-
tion with the cheapest possible recre-
ational drone, Vasquez adds. Choose the
model that can deliver the best photos
and data and remain steady in the air,
not the one that’s made for cruising
around a backyard for fun.
It’s also a good idea to plan out the
inspection ahead of time so you can
conduct it in an organized manner.
DroneDeploy’s app lets you chart the
flight path in advance, then directs the
drone to take off and capture imagery
autonomously. If you don’t have software
that can do this, make sure that you’re
viewing the whole roof methodically and
carefully, not just zipping from place to
place. Vasquez’s inspections often identify missing roof tiles or shingles, leaks
through curtainwall or roofs, and failing
Janelle Penny janelle.penny@buildings.
com is Senior Editor of BUILDINGS.