Drone roof inspections are one of the most common types of drone inspections these days.
But just a few years back, using a drone to collect aerial data for a roof inspection was still more of an idea than a common practice.
In this guide to drone roof inspections we’ll go over what a drone roof inspection is, the benefits of using drones for roof inspections, and the best drones to use for roof inspections. We’ll also share a step-by-step approach to help you get started doing drone roof inspections.
If you’re interested in being a drone pilot who earns money doing drone roof inspections, or if you want to learn more about drone roof inspections for your home inspection or insurance adjustment work, you’ve come to the right place.
Here’s a menu to help you navigate this in-depth guide to roof drone inspections:
A drone roof inspection is the practice of using a drone to collect inspection data showing the condition of a roof, then using that data to complete an inspection of the roof.
In most drone roof inspections, the data a drone pilot collects is high-resolution photos and video. They may also collect thermal data or LiDAR data.
Without a drone, the traditional way to conduct a roof inspection is for a home inspector or insurance adjuster to climb onto the roof with a ladder.
Once up there, they inspect the portions of the roof they can see with their naked eye, taking pictures of areas that look problematic so they can study them more closely later, and use them to make a final inspection report.
In a drone roof inspection, on the other hand, the inspector will be looking for potential damage and wear in different parts of the roof, including:
In any inspection, inspection data must first be collected, then analyzed by an expert.
Just like the term “drone inspection,” the term “drone roof inspection” is a general phrase that refers to the data collection part of the job. That is, a drone pilot may do a drone roof inspection without actually analyzing the data they collect (that analysis is often done later, by a subject matter expert).
However, some home inspectors use drones to collect the data they need for a roof inspection and then analyze that data themselves. But it’s more common for a drone pilot to collect the data and give it to a professional inspector, who will then complete the inspection.
Getting a drone roof inspection can have a range of costs depending on:
For the average home, the cost range is about $150-$400 for a professional drone roof inspection.
Drone pilots may charge anywhere from $80 to $250 an hour for roof inspection work. If you’re doing a roof inspection for a large property or a piece of commercial real estate, you can project a higher cost due to the greater amount of work and time needed to collect data.
When you use a drone for a roof inspection, you don’t have to climb a ladder and walk around the roof in order to inspect it—all the data you need for the inspection can be collected safely from the ground.
But safety isn’t the only benefit of using a drone to inspect a roof.
Here are the five main benefits of doing roof drone inspections instead of doing them manually.
We’ve already mentioned the safety benefit, and it’s both big and obvious: when you use a drone to do a roof inspection, you don’t have to endanger yourself to get the data you need.
By reducing or even eliminating the need for a person to go onto the roof, the entire inspection process becomes significantly safer.
Just think about it—putting up a ladder, climbing onto the roof, walking around and taking pictures. All of that takes time.
Compare this to sending a drone into the air while it records video constantly, pausing to snap extra photos as needed.
The second approach is much faster, because it removes all the manual steps found in the first one.
Speeding things up also means reducing the overall cost of each roof inspection.
If you’re a home inspector or insurance adjustor and you can get more work done in a single day due to drones helping you speed up your work, those savings can go directly into your pocket as extra profit.
Because a drone is shooting video footage the entire time it’s in the air, you get way more data than you would if you were walking around on a roof, occasionally taking photos.
And the quality of that data is typically as good as, and sometimes better than, the data you’d get by snapping photos manually, in part because drones now have incredibly high quality cameras.
When doing a roof inspection in person, there can be roofs—like a tower roof, a turreted roof, or other steeply pitched types—that are just too hard or too dangerous to walk or climb on.
In these instances, the inspector will often call it, and declare that they can’t inspect that part of the roof.
This isn’t ideal. Without that data, a home buyer may have to make a decision without knowing the full condition of the roof, or an insurance adjustor will just have to make a decision based on what they can see from the ground.
Drones bypass this problem of accessibility, making it possible to collect visual data on any part of a roof you need to inspect, no matter how hard it may be for a person to reach it.
At first, you might think there’s only one industry that does roof drone inspections. It’s home inspections, right?
And it’s true that home inspectors are one of the main groups of professionals that use drones to inspect roofs. But there are also several others.
Here they are.
Home inspectors now commonly use drones for roof inspections.
No good home inspection is complete without an inspection of the roof. Roofs are notoriously expensive to fix, and no home buyer wants to purchase a new home only to discover that the roof needs to be replaced.
Both home buyers and home sellers have been turning to roof drone inspections performed by home inspection providers to get a complete understanding of the condition of a property’s roof, without having to climb onto it and walk around.
In addition to home inspections during a potential sale, home owners also hire home inspectors to do roof inspections by drone when they suspect something may be wrong with their roof, so they can identify the problem and fix it before it gets worse.
After a major weather event like a hurricane or tropical storm insurance companies expect a flurry of claims. And one of the most common claims is for damage to a home’s roof.
Insurance companies often send out drone pilots to collect aerial data throughout a neighborhood right after a major weather event, quickly collecting data on all the homes impacted in the area where claims have been made, which can then be processed by insurance adjusters.
And the adjustors don’t have to be on site for their review.
They can wait safely in an office, or at home, and evaluate the drone data when it arrives. This approach helps insurance companies keep their adjusters out of potentially dangerous, unstable areas while speeding up their process times for claims, saving them money on the entire workflow.
It’s not just home inspections that can benefit from roof inspections. Commercial real estate inspections can too.
Before a company or a potential investor buys a piece of commercial real estate, a drone inspection can help quickly evaluate the condition of the roof, surfacing any potential issues so they can be part of the purchase negotiation instead of making for an expensive discovery after the sale.
To know whether a roof is suitable for a solar panel installation, you have to inspect it.
A drone can quickly get all the details needed to make a decision about whether a roof is a good candidate for solar panels, including its angle, structure, and how it’s oriented toward the sun. All of this information is crucial for determining whether a given roof can be used for collecting solar energy, as well identifying the best spot on the roof to place a panel, or multiple panels.
How do you know if your construction project is on track?
You can do a manual inspection, walking and climbing the entire site and collecting data. Or you can send a drone into the air and quickly get a lot more data than the manual process allows, including data that can be used to make a 3D model of the site.
Although the roof is only one part of a construction project, it’s an important part. And drones can collect data reflecting the current condition of the roof on a building that’s under construction, whether it’s a big capital effort, like a hospital, or a single-family residential home.
Industrial facilities must be periodically inspected to ensure they stay in good working order.
These inspections are generally referred to as infrastructure inspections—this could be the inspection of a warehouse or factory, or it could be the inspection of an industrial asset, like a boiler, pressure vessel, or even a massive grain silo.
For all of these efforts, inspecting the roof is a key part of the infrastructure maintenance work. And in some cases, such as after major weather events or incidents such as felled trees, the roof may be the only area that needs to be inspected.
Wondering how you actually do a roof drone inspection?
Here are all the steps you need to know, in order.
Ahead of the actual inspection, make sure you’re ready to go by checking all of these things:
*Pro tip: Keep in mind the full amount of flight time you expect to need and make sure you’ll have enough batteries to achieve that amount of time in the air, especially if you plan to do multiple inspections and don’t have a way to recharge.
Consider establishing a safe operating area around the property where you plan to fly. Doing this helps you avoid property damage or injuries in the event that your drone fails, and falls out of the sky.
Keep in mind that you should have your Part 107 certificate if you plan to fly drones for work—and any kind of roof inspection with a drone is considered work. (Even working for barter or doing free work that has a commercial benefit, such as a donation of a drone roof inspection, is still considered work by the FAA, and requires a Part 107 drone license.)
Finally, make sure you’re in compliance with any local drone laws related to drone operations where you plan to fly.
Your gear is ready, the weather looks good, and you’re legally compliant.
Now it’s time to plan your flight path.
Use mapping software to plan your drone’s flight path. The path should provide thorough coverage of the roof, giving you angles of it from several perspectives to ensure you get all the data you need for your inspection.
You’ve done your prep, and now you’re ready—put your drone in the air and get the data you need!
Remember, as you’re flying the drone should be capturing high quality photos and/or video of the entire roof. If you see areas of concern on the roof, like a damaged chimney or skylight, spend more time there so you’ll have more data to review once you land.
In addition to damage, you may also be looking for areas that need maintenance, such as gutters filled with leaves, gunk, or snow, damage from birds, wasps, or other creatures, or backed-up scuppers or drains.
After you’ve collected all your roof inspection data, it’s time to process it into deliverables for your client.
Using drone roof inspection software, you can stitch your drone photos together to make a complete detailed visual map of the roof.
Once you have all your photos, videos, 3D models, orthomosaics, or other outputs, then it’s either time to analyze them yourself, carefully reviewing them for signs of damage, or to pass them on to a subject matter expert for review.
Using your deliverables, put together a report that details the key findings from the roof inspection, highlighting the potential problems your inspection found on the roof.
*This last step may not be part of your work. You may only be tasked with collecting the data, processing it, and sharing it with a roof inspection expert or insurance adjustor (depending on the purpose of your work). Not everyone who’s doing a drone roof inspection will actually be tasked with inspecting the data they collect.
There are several different types of deliverables someone who hires a drone pilot for a roof inspection may want.
Each of them can serve different functions, and provide either different layers of detail or different types of potential insights into the condition of a roof.
Here are the most common deliverables a drone pilot provides after doing a roof inspection:
A note on the last deliverable—aerial thermography alone is so powerful, it could be its own roof inspection business line for enterprising drone pilots.
Commercial real estate owners can realize substantial savings just from identifying places where their buildings are leaking heat, making it well worth it for them to inspect in periodic inspections with thermal drones.
If you’re looking for work as a drone pilot, roof inspections could be one reliable avenue for making money. (We say one because we haven’t heard of a commercial drone pilot making a living doing only roof inspections.)
A pilot with a mid-tier prosumer drone—we mean a drone that costs anywhere from about $800 to about $5,000 (see below for specific recommendations)—can make steady money doing roof inspections.
If a drone pilot flies two inspections a day at about $300 per inspection, they could make around $3,000 per week. That’s pretty good, if you can find the work.
One thing to look out for is that insurance companies will be hungry to do roof inspections right after major weather events. So if you live in an area with a hurricane season, anticipate lots of roof inspection work after any major storm or hurricane.
When thinking about potential income, it’s also important to keep your expenses in mind. You have your initial investment in your drone, as well as the software you’ll need to process your drone’s data into deliverables for your client, not to mention wanting to consider drone insurance.
One of the fastest ways to find drone roof inspection work is by signing up to fly for a third party drone service provider.
Here are a few resources to help look for work as a drone pilot:
Below we’ll share the drone models we recommend for roof inspections.
But before we share the specific models, here are some characteristics to look for in doing your research for the best roof inspection drone.
Now that we’ve covered some high level things to look for in a good drone for roof inspections, let’s look at our list of the best platforms out there.
Price: Starts at $1,099
Thanks to its sophisticated autonomy, the Skydio 2+ can basically fly itself, allowing you to get all the data you need for a roof inspection without very much effort. Also, the visual data it collects will be high quality, and meet the needs for any roof inspection you might be hired to do.
Skydio has a mode called KeyFrame that lets you create a preset flight path for the drone, which could be useful for roof inspections. The mode was created for real estate marketing, to make it easy to highlight specific parts of a property, but you could try adopting it to make sure you get coverage for key parts of a roof inspection.
Price: Starts at $1,599
The Phantom 4 Pro V2 is a go-to drone for a lot of people who do roof inspections.
Although it’s an older DJI model, it’s still a solid option due to its high-quality images and ability to fly pre-programmed flight paths for collecting roof inspection data. And of course, you don’t have to automate your flights—you can also manually control the Phantom 4 Pro V2 to swoop in and get the detailed shots you need to create a final report.
Price: Starts at $2,300
The Autel EVO 2 Pro was made to go head-to-head with the Mavic 3. One benefit to the EVO 2 Pro over the Mavic 3 is that Autel doesn’t use geofencing, which means you’ll have more control when flying near no-fly zones or with permission inside no-fly zones (but don’t fly inside no-fly zones without permission, of course).
A plus for the EVO 2 Pro is that it has strong wind resistance, allowing you to fly during high winds. Even though it’s on the heavy side—the weight helps with its wind resistance—it still has an impressive 40 minutes of flight time.
Price: Starts at $2,199
The Mavic 3 Pro is one of the best consumer drones on the market right now.
It has the classic foldable Mavic design but with an all new camera system that’s a first of its kind—a tri-camera module that’s three different cameras in one.
Some professional drone pilots won’t need such a powerful drone for roof inspections. But if you are an experienced commercial drone pilot, or you plan to use your drone for other types of aerial cinematography, the Mavic 3 Pro may be the perfect option.