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Could Drones be The Future of Roofing Construction?

Posted by Marion McKnight on September 3, 2015

drone-roofing-constructionSometimes, it seems as if the roofing construction industry is always lagging behind when it comes to adopting new technologies, but don’t tell that to the businesses that are using drones for everything from inspections to job progress documentation to marketing. Here are just a few of the ways drones are catapulting both the roofing construction industry and facility management to the forefront of cutting-edge technology.

1. Surveying

Conducting an initial survey before breaking ground on a new project is construction 101. Inaccurate information on things like easements, utilities, access, ground composition, and elevation can quickly drain all potential profit from a job. A low-flying drone can do the survey more quickly than human workers and more accurately than traditional aerial photography. The resulting images can even be combined to make a digital 3-D model roof management professionals can use to discuss details and potential points of concern with clients.

2. Documenting Job Progress

There are many stakeholders in a construction project – the client, the project manager, the owner of the construction company, etc. – and, understandably, they all want reassurance that the job is going well and progressing on schedule. But having all stakeholders visit a job site in person can be time-consuming and expensive, not to mention disruptive to the workers. On top of that, there are always safety concerns when people who are untrained in construction wander around a job site.

Now, roofing construction companies can use drones to document the progress of any job site, and they can do it as often as they need to. The technology is already in use at the site of a new stadium that’s being built for California’s Sacramento Kings. The drones survey the site at least once a day and go a lot further than just taking pictures. They can actually analyze the images and pinpoint areas that are lagging behind. Drones can also be used in place of a final on-site inspection when construction is complete, and the savings in both money and time can be significant.

3. Compliance Monitoring

One of the biggest aids to roof management that drones can bring is added safety. While those same drones are flying around getting documentation of progress, they can also look for things like OSHA violations. Spotting those violations before a surprise inspection or, even worse, an accident, saves time, resources, and money.

4. Performing Maintenance Tasks 

Drones can also play a starring role once a job is finished and the building is occupied. The benefits can be significant:

  • One of the primary uses for drones will likely be regular inspection necessary for routine maintenance. First, it’s safer. Some parts of a building – especially the roof and any roofing equipment – are hard to access. Using a drone to inspect the roof, rooftop equipment and supports, and any other hard-to-reach areas will significantly reduce the risks associated with having workers inspect a roof in person.
  • The risks of working on a roof increase when there’s heavy equipment to be taken up. Workers are prone to back injuries and falls. Drones give maintenance workers the option of waiting on the roof while the drone does the heavy lifting.
  • Wear-and-tear on the roof is another concern. Foot traffic is primary causes of roof wear. Walkways help a lot – but only if employees stay on them. Using drones for inspections promises to extend roof life.
  • Drones can also be used to look for potential problems, such as the source of a leak.

5. Controlling Labor Costs 

While drones aren’t cheap, they can complete an inspection much more quickly than maintenance workers can. And manning a drone usually takes only one person, freeing the rest of the maintenance technicians up for other tasks.

6. Marketing

Roofing construction companies can also use drones to market their services. Instead of just using still-life photography, online portfolios can contain video footage shot from drones. Not only does this give potential clients an up-close-and-personal way to view previous jobs, drones still have enough of a “cool factor” going for them that people are more likely to watch just to see what the drone can do.

In 10 years or so – maybe a lot sooner – drones will be just another roofing management tool, like cranes and forklifts. Right now, though, the construction industry has barely even started imagining the possibilities. What are some ways you could use drones in your business?

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