Why Your Business Should Be Utilizing Drone Technology for Roof Inspections

Whether you’re in the business as an engineer, consultant, roofer, attorney, public adjuster, insurance carrier or independent adjuster, if your business doesn’t currently take advantage of drone technology today, you are likely missing out on a huge opportunity to save you money and time. So why is this technology so valuable and how can it bring value to your business?

My business is in the drone industry providing a service to various companies for various applications. I will be the first to tell you that (and I rarely advise) using drone technology as a stand alone inspection tool. It is not often in your clients best interest. Simply put, UAV’s are a new tool you can add to your tool box to aid in investigating property conditions. Whether utilizing visible imagery or infrared, the process of documenting a structure allows you to efficiently and effectively pinpoint areas of concern on the structure for further investigation. It gives you a better overview of the condition before ever touching the structure and provides effective documentation. 

In my time in this industry, one of the biggest missed opportunities that really does the property owner an injustice is not effectively documenting a property immediately following a weather event causing damage. I’ve been involved in multiple cases where we deployed drones the day after a weather event to document property conditions. The engineer or consultant involved observed the damages documented and provided an estimate and strategy for repairs. Because of the efficiency of the process and effectiveness of showing the condition to the insurance carrier, a claim was paid out in less than 4 months from the date of the loss and reconstruction completed in less than 8 months.

On the flip side, I have been on cases where we deployed the drones over a year later. We have been involved in cases where the property owner had their roof tapped before the damage could be assessed and documented. The insurance carrier fought the claim to the point we were asked to come back out to document the condition over a year after the date of the loss while it was in litigation. We had to coordinate with a roof and tarp company to remove the old tarp, have us drone the roof, then put another tarp over the damaged roof. The damage was obviously still present to be documented, but it’s effectiveness is substantially reduced the more time goes between the date of the loss and completed imaging. 

The Math – Time is Money

So let’s do some math. The Crescent in Downtown/Uptown Dallas is a big claim we have been involved with in 2019. We deployed our drones the very next day after a wind storm hit Dallas back in June of 2019. This allowed the process to get started immediately with processing an insurance claim. This structure did not have anchors on the roof to allow for drops to take place in an efficient amount of time. It would have taken weeks to have them installed and ready to make drops to inspect the damages. In today’s world, time is money. While the use of the drone didn’t negate the need to have the anchors installed, it did save weeks worth of time. In addition to time, there was a substantial cost savings by the time saved from making drops and saving the physical inspection portion for being during the repair process. In this case, enough information was collected from the drone inspection to estimate repairs under the impression that work orders can be expected as the repair and inspection process goes on. Even making drops, you won’t know the condition behind the slate until you cut in to the structure and that can’t be completed until repairs begin. 

Another situation (which touched on a bit earlier) we helped document a residential tile roof structure in Coral Springs, FL. The proper procedure would have been to deploy a drone to document the roof in detail, involve a roofing engineer or consultant to report on damage and inspect the structure as necessary to report on the damages, then have the roof temporarily wrapped or tarped until the claim is processed for repair. The cost for our service was only $200 to document the roof. The cost to install the first tarp was estimated at ______. The cost to remove the old one and then install the new tarp upon completion was ________. Outside of the lost time from arguing over roof damage that was never documented could have absolutely been avoided and an estimated tangible figure of _______ could have been saved.

Effective Use of Drones for Roof Inspections

For commercial roof structures, a simple solution exists to take the guess work out of the roof inspection process. If you follow this process, it will to save you time, provide a deliverable report that gives an amazing visual representation as to the roofs condition and provides evidence that can be very hard to refute.  Below are the steps that must be followed for this process to be effective. 

Step 1: Capture aerial visible images of the roof documenting exterior conditions observing debris, pounding water, discoloration, possible hail damage, equipment and more. 

Step 2: Perform a thermal roof scan giving you the ability to observe areas of suspected moisture giving you a foundation to guide you in successfully performing a physical inspection to validate what we are seeing in our imagery. 

Step 3: Perform further testing such as core samples, moisture probe tests, moisture meter tests, and more to confirm the presence of moisture. 

Step 4: Observe openings or possible entry points for moisture to have gotten in to the structure and document those findings. 

Step 5: Investigate the cause of those openings. 

Step 6: If a storm is the suspected causation for the damages observed, you then need to clearly correlate that damage with a historical weather event that would have caused the damage. 

Why This Process Works

This process can save you time doing investigative work on the roof blindly. Go in with a plan and understand the results you should expect from the aerial imagery before stepping foot on the roof. The value this brings to a case can be highly valuable. The goal is to provide an unbiased report observing the existing condition of the roof. If one of these steps is left out, you leave gaps in the analysis that can allow room to have the evidence refuted. In an insurance claim, if there is a case, putting together the proper inspection report as described can help you get a claim processed in a reasonable amount of time. 

From that same storm back in June of 2019, we performed a thermal roof scan on a commercial roof in Dallas in partnership with an engineering firm representing the insurance carrier. Our scan was used by the engineers to perform physical testing to confirm the areas we suspected moisture were actually wet. It was confirmed that % of the roof was wet. The engineers provided their reports to the carrier and the claim was paid within 4 months from the date of loss. The inspection method previously described was used and the process electively showed the condition of the roof and correlated it with the weather event that caused the damage.

To summarize, drones can bring a lot of value to the table. If this tool is utilized properly, it can be a game changer to helping identify, document and report on structural damages and save you time and money. 

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