Drone Roof Inspections: The Complete Guide

Drone Roof Inspections: Best Drones and Software

From insurance adjusters to home inspectors, roofing companies to acreage owners, using drones for roof inspections has gone from niche to mainstream quickly. 

Inspecting a roof with a drone is typically much safer than having to send up a human on a ladder. No longer do you have to worry about anchoring yourself to the roof and  slipping or falling. No longer do you have to set up safety tethers, safety nets, temporary walls etc.

But what kind of drones are best for inspecting roofs? Which software is the best for storing and analyzing the roof inspection data that you do capture? How much money can you make inspecting roofs with a drone? 

We explore all these topics in more in this blog post….

The Benefits of Drone Roof Inspections:

The benefits of inspecting roofs with your drone are many. A few of them are:

  1. No longer having to physically set up and climb a ladder yourself (or having to send up one of your employees)
  2. Eliminates the risk of you or your employees falling off of the roof and risking serious injury or death
  3. Much quicker inspections than having to set up/take down a ladder, having to put on safety harnesses, set up anchor points etc
  4. Being able to get the entire roof in one shot vs having to take many photos using a handheld camera.
  5. Decreases risk of property/vehicle damage as you no longer have to carry ladders, tools, or cameras past vehicles in a driveway. Also removes chances of bumping into sides of homes or gutters with your ladders and inspection equipment
  6. Allows for much higher volumes of roof inspections due to the shorter turnaround time. This can be very significant especially for roofers trying to capture a large share of customers needing repairs after hail storms or due to wind damage. 
  7. Initial roof inspections are easily repeatable after the work has been completed. Using pre-programmed flight plans and GPS built into the drones ensures that your pre and post work inspections closely match, providing more accurate reporting for your customers. 
  8. Highly accurate: most roof inspection programs stitch photos together with greater than 99% accuracy. 

Best Drones for Roof Inspections (updated 2021):

Although we are often asked this question, it is a bit like asking “what are the best shoes?”, or, “what is the best car?”.

Depending on your needs, this answer will vary.

For example, if you have a strict budget limitation of $500 this will give you different options than having a $10,000 budget limit for your drone. Do you require thermal imaging? Do you require automated flight plans? Do you live near an airport and have restrictions on drone size and weight? Are you inspecting commercial buildings (where you may need longer flight times) or smaller residential buildings, where flight time is not really an issue?

All of these questions are important to explore prior to purchasing a drone for your roof inspection business. 

Here is our list of drones we recommend for roof inspections along with their strengths and weaknesses. Please note, these drones are not ranked from best to worst as they all have their own strengths and weaknesses.

  • DJI Mini 2: The DJI Mini 2 is probably a drone that every roof inspector should have in their tool bag, regardless of whether they use a different drone for the bulk of their inspections. As this drone is incredibly compact and light weight (under 250g) it is often able to fly without registration or restrictions (be sure to check local laws in your area). Despite being so small it still packs a stabilized 4K video camera and can shoot 12MP still photos. 
    • Pros: Very affordable and so small that it falls outside of restrictions and regulations in most areas
    • Cons: Being very light weight the Mini 2 will struggle in higher winds. The camera is only 12MP which is not very high resolution, especially if you need detailed images of the whole roof in one shot. The lower camera resolution also means you will tend to fly closer to the building to get the detail you need, which can place your drone at risk, especially if the wind picks up or a gust slams it into the house.
    • Who is it for? As mentioned, this drone should be in every roof inspector’s tool bag, even if simply as a backup in case a larger drone can not fly due to restrictions. Learn more about the DJI Mini 2 by clicking here.
  • DJI Mavic 2 Pro: The big brother to the DJI Mini 2, the Mavic 2 Pro is a larger and more powerful drone. It also has an incredible 20MP camera sensor developed in conjunction with one of the world leaders in camera technology, Hasselblad. It produces incredibly sharp and clear images, and it’s larger size, weight and more powerful motors means that it can handle higher winds. It also has a great obstacle avoidance system built in that uses cameras and sonar to detect when it flies close to objects. It is much pricier than the Mini 2 but a well rounded option that should pay for itself quickly. 
    • Pros: Excellent obstacle avoidance system, one of the better drone cameras in this list. Compatible with automated roof inspection software such as DroneDeploy’s Roof Report
    • Cons: Pricey, lacks a thermal imaging option that higher end drone models have
    • Who is it for? This is one of the most popular drones in the world, and will be a great machine for the average inspector. Learn more about the DJI Mavic 2 Pro here: DJI Mavic 2 Pro
  • DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced: Now we are getting into some more serious drone inspection equipment. The Mavic 2 Enterprise is somewhat similar to the Mavic 2 Pro above but also includes a high resolution radiometric thermal camera, ideal for “seeing” what is under the surface of a roof, such as water leaks or insulation gaps. It also has a 48MP ultra-high resolution camera sensor that has a 32x digital zoom option, great for flights where you can not get very close to a building (such as an inspection around a ventilation system or communications antenna). The Enterprise edition also allows for attachments such as spotlights, speakers and more. It also includes GPS timestamping on all photos and video, ideal for detailed inspection reports. 
    • Pros: Incredibly high resolution RGB camera, top of the line thermal camera. Enterprise grade image tagging and optional RTK positioning system. Integrates well various roof inspection software programs.
    • Cons: Very high cost (around $7500-$10,000 USD)
    • Who is it for? The Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is for the roof inspector needing very detailed and accurate reports and where thermal imaging is an important part of their workflow (typically important for inspections of commercial buildings with flat roofs where sub-surface leaks or standing water would not be visible on a regular camera). Definitely geared towards users doing high volumes or high value inspections. Learn more about the DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced here.

Drone Roof Inspection Software

Now, doing a drone roof inspection does not require software. Anyone can pop up a drone and take a few photos of a roof without having to rely on third party software. The benefits of doing an inspection via an app however is that inspections are repeatable, tracked and they typically make sharing the results with your customers very easy and seamless. Here is a list of currently available inspection software (in no particular order):

  • Roof Report: This is a 3rd party app available inside of the DroneDeploy marketplace. DroneDeploy remains at the top of the heap when it comes to anything to do with drone mapping. We discuss DroneDeploy in general in this blog post, however this particular post covers DroneDeploy Roof Report, a sub-service of DroneDeploy that focuses strictly on roof measurements and data collection for roof inspectors. If you use their recommended settings for performing roof reports they state the results are 99.4% accurate, much higher than most standard inspection reports. 
  • EZ-Roof: Another great option for performing roof inspections, EZ-Roof charges only $60/house for processing roof inspection data. Like Roof Report, they provide and easy to share PDF or direct link to the report. 
  • EZ-3D: EZ-3D includes precise, automated measurements and detailed reports with every inspection. It also includes Xactimate integration to allow you to quickly generate pricing quotes for your roofing customers 
  • IMGING: This software by Loveland Innovations is one of the pricier ones of the bunch ($3299/year) but includes a lot of enterprise grade tools such as photo-realistic 3D models, bidding tools and more. See more pricing and plans at https://www.lovelandinnovations.com/annually/ or learn more about the company and software at https://www.lovelandinnovations.com/drone-inspection/
  • Pix4D : Pix4D is another pricey option, but the software is incredibly reliable and the company has a track record of developing top-notch drone apps. Pix4D starts at $291/month (free trial available. 
  • RoofSnap: One of the cheaper options on this list, RoofSnap starts at only $99/month. They also offer an additional service that draws perimeter and pitch lines on the image generated by the drone. For pricing and other details please visit http://roofsnap.com/Home/Products

Drone Roof Inspection Costs

Roof inspection prices can vary greatly, with some roofers offering a basic inspection for free (typically as a lead magnet to sell new roofs) to companies charging thousands for a high resolution thermal inspection for commercial buildings. 

Most companies charge a square foot inspection price, with smaller residential homes going for $0.05/sqft to $0.10/sqft for larger or more difficult to access properties. 

In Conclusion:

Have more questions about drone roof inspections? Email us at info@dronetrader.com and we’ll be happy to help!