Using Drones When Doing Exterior Building Inspections

Changing the future of building inspections …

It seems that drones are everywhere lately. New camera technology has assisted builders as they work to assess and maintain buildings. The infrared camera has allowed them to examine wall conditions in specific areas, even without creating exploratory openings. Articulating cameras placed on borescopes have allowed them to look inside of cavities using only small openings. Endoscopic cameras have helped them to examine sewer lines and plumbing that would otherwise be completely inaccessible. Even a simple invention like the Selfie-Stick has allowed technical auditors and building assessors to look good while they’re doing their jobs.

Engineers have been given an entirely new tool in the form of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles — Drones. UAVs or drones have been available for years, but recently, due to dramatic increase in their quality and the decrease in their cost, they have become far more popular and accessible.
The ability to cost effectively and easily fly a camera around your building at a variety of altitudes has dramatically changed the future of building assessment and inspection. This can also assist in the evaluation of exterior building restoration and roofing repairs.

drone

How Can a Drone Improve the Quality of Building Inspections?

Drones improve building inspection quality in two major ways. First, they make it simple to access all areas of the building. Second, they improve the reliability of the inspection data.
In the past, in order to inspect the exterior of a building, workers had to view the building from balconies, from the ground, or from adjacent buildings using binoculars. Alternatively, they had to hang from suspended equipment in an attempt to view the building’s elements. Drones allow workers to examine the entire building without needing to leave the ground. Even for just the first stage of an inspection, it’s possible to get a much better view than what one could get with only binoculars.
After a drone inspection, the engineers will be given photos or videos from the drone as documentation of the inspection. While this doesn’t replace human eyes, the value of the permanence of this set of data, so that another individual can go back and see the entire footage of a building as it was on a specific date, cannot be expressed.

What Type of Drone Will I Need? What Do I Need to Inspect?

Drones are available in a variety of sizes. The size of the drone will determine the size of the camera, and in turn the level of detail the drone is capable of capturing. The height of the inspection and the weather you’ll need to use it in will also change the type of drone that may be needed.
Drones cannot handle external repairs yet, and a visual inspection may still be needed. However, the basic inspection can be handled by drone so that the workers can then determine what the next step is. For preliminary inspections, it’s worthwhile to consider utilizing a drone with as high of a resolution of a camera as you can obtain.
The best applications of drones for building elements often come from thermal roof scans or full exterior surveys. When one is attempting to examine the entire brick veneer of a building or is concerned about potential heat loss through a roof, detailed infrared camera inspections allow for a permanent snapshot of the entire building as it appeared at a specific date and time.

What Do You Get From the Inspection?

The information that comes back to you appears in a visual format. You’ll then need to decide how you get the data and what method you’ll use to convert it into a report that will be useful to the buildings owners and managers so that they can make necessary adjustments.
Will you need an inspector on the ground piloting the drone to specific parts of the building, or will the pilot simply be capturing pictures of the entire building from top to bottom?
Will overall pictures be good enough, or will you be attempting to gather other specific data such as looking for deterioration, a heat map, or other data?

buildings

Potential Time and Money Savings

On smaller inspections of elements, the drone basically acts as an additional set of eyes on the building that is able to reach multiple areas that are difficult for humans to reach. The biggest value lies in the ability to submit an entire building facade survey, which used to take weeks and a team of inspectors. This can now be done in two days with two to three drone operators. Many other expenses are removed completely, such as swing stage set up and relocation.
Quantities and conditions can be assessed in the office using software after the inspection is complete.

It Just Can’t Be That Easy!

Well, not always. As with all new technology, it does have some limitations. Neighbors and building owners must be notified, and where necessary, they’ll have to provide permission.
The drone can only fly, for now, where a pilot is able to keep direct line of site. Before each flight, the drone pilot and company must meet regulatory standards and then file appropriate documents. Trees may also obstruct some areas from line of site, which means that additional investigation techniques may become necessary. Traffic must be controlled under a flying drone, so it’s necessary to restrict the flow on a private road, and it rules out doing these inspections over a busy street.

It’s necessary to keep an eye on regulations, as they’re constantly evolving and changing to support the technology. However, working within these limitations, various companies are working to use this new technology to limit costs and increase reliability.

Drones are changing the future of building inspections, and we simply cannot overlook their usefulness and versatility. The next time a staff member suggests doing a survey or visual inspection by conventional means, push a bit and see if their project would benefit from utilizing a drone.

For all your professional property restoration needs, contact Excel Projects today to schedule and on-site assessment and quotation.