There are many applications for drones and roof inspections is one of the applications to which drones are most suited. The great thing about using a drone for roof inspections is that you are able to get close to the roof without having to fill out any complicated and time-consuming paperwork for working at heights.
The best drones for roof inspections include the DJI Mavic Mini 2, Parrot Anafi Thermal, DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and the Autel Evo 2. A drone which has digital or optical zoom so you can see all of the details of the roof easily. Thermal imaging is a bonus for monitoring heat loss and wiring hotspots.
If you are in a hurry here are the best drones for roof inspections:
- DJI Mavic Mini 2 = $599.00
- DJI Mavic Air 2 = $714.00
- Parrot Anafi Thermal = $1,900.00
- DJI Mavic 2 Zoom = $1,349.00
- Autel Evo 2 = $1,799.00
DJI Mavic Mini 2 – Best for add on services
The Mavic mini 2 is an incredibly versatile and small drone which is perfect for roof inspections.
It is incredibly light (under 249 g) and has a maximum flight time of about 31 minutes. With a level V wind resistance it is perfect for nearly every type of roof inspection mission.
That is because you can fly this drone without any need to press piloting exams or register the drone as it is under 250 g. Local laws may vary.
Importantly, it has an ultra clear 4K video capability with a three axis gimbal and a four times zoom. The assume is very important as it means that you do not have to get close to the roof in order to inspect it thoroughly.
DJI Mavic Air 2 – Best for power vs cost
The Mavic air 2 is a fantastic choice for those looking for a serious camera drone which can handle nearly everything that a roof inspection throws at it.
It has a maximum flight time of 34 minutes and can capture incredibly detailed photos and video of a roof through its half inch sensor with a 4K camera.
Although this camera is incredibly powerful the drone packs down into a very portable form. There are a ton of intelligence shooting functions and a range of sensors which keep your drone safe and secure as its flying it roof inspection mission.
The DJI Mavic air 2 perceives as environment in three directions: in front, behind, and below. As well as the senses, it has an advanced pilot assistance system which maps out the environment and actively avoids obstacles during flight.
This drone has a four times digital zoom which was tested thoroughly by nofilmschool.com:
Digital zoom is a fantastic option for getting close to the roof without having to get in the way of antenna or chimney stacks.
Parrot Anafi – Best thermal option and range of gimbal
If you do not want to play about in the DJI ecosystem the parrot Anafi is a fantastic drone which you can use for roof inspections. Also, they have a thermal option for roof inspections – see you can see if your solar panels are heating up or if the house is holding heat or there are improvements you can make so the home becomes more eco-friendly.
With a weight of only 320 g this is a very compact and portable drone. The Anafi can be set up in just a few seconds and the camera is stabilised on five axes which means that the optical sensor always picks up the best photo possible.
There is a three times zoom so that you can zoom in on the roof without having to get close to any dangerous antenna or chimneys.
It has 25 minutes of battery life and a range of assisted flight modes which enable even the newest of drone pilots to fly with confidence.
There are plenty of packs including the extended, FPV and work packs which enable you to choose a bundle of accessories which will make your drone more suited to the way that you want to perform roof inspections.
The Anafi thermal is able to detect temperatures of between -10° and +400° and because of the way the drone processes the image you are able to see the temperature of each individual pixel. It also has up to 3 times digital zoom and a 4K camera.
To make the interpretation of the image is better, the parrot Anafi thermal is able to isolate the interesting area of the roof and give you an absolute temperature value. The great thing is that the colour palette of the video can be re-edited from the fly and which means that you can control the contrast of the thermal data to make it easier to find exactly what you are looking for. You don’t have to download the image and go through tricky post processing editing or refinement.
DJI Mavic 2 (ZOOM) – Best older option
The DJI Mavic 2 has a Hasselblad camera which provides incredible aerial photography capability and it has a 1 inch CMOS sensor which has an active area of four times the original Mavic pro. This means that the sensor performs better in low light environments as it has a more extensive ISO range.
If you really want to get close to your roof to inspect it you can opt for the DJI Mavic 2 zoom. It has four times zoom including a two times optical zoom. This means that it is able to zoom in on the roof without any loss of quality or the potential of adding pixilation to the image.
The 48 mm telephoto lens compresses the perspective which allows you to capture some incredible cinematic shots which, may be a little bit of an overkill for roof inspections, but gives you a lot of creative freedom if you are to take this drone out anywhere else.
The camera will capture and patch nine photos together Willis telephoto lens resulting in a 48 megapixel super resolution photo which allows you to zoom in far more than typical panoramas.
If you have to do a lot of roof inspections at dusk you can use the hyper light function which is a low light setting designed to enhance the images whilst reducing the noise which is created at high iso settings.
This is a relatively old drone and you can pick them up secondhand for a bargain price. If you would like to know more about buying a second hand drone check out my other article where I provide you with a 50 part checklist which is free to download – click here to learn how to buy a second hand drone, easily.
Autel Evo 2 – Best versatility
If you really want to get serious with your roof inspections you should look at the Autel Evo 2. It records in a massive 8K resolution with 16 times more pixels compared to HD and four times as many pixels as 4K. The high resolution enables the ability to zoom deep into a scene without any loss of quality.
This is the only drone on the list which does this and also has a 360° of obstacle avoidance system. It has 19 groups of sensors including 12 visual senses which enable it to 3 dimensionally map and plan its path in real-time. Because roofs are relatively complicated in industrial settings this ensures that the drone will stay safe at all times even from obstacles which are overhanging above it.
It has a maximum flight time of 40 minutes which is one of the longest in this list and is able to put up with winds of 39 mph which is perfect for flying in urban conditions with confidence.
Buyers guide: Drone for roof inspections
If none of the drones, above, take your fancy here is the buyers guide so that you can choose the best drones for roof inspections.
These are the absolute essential elements you need to compare and contrast between each drone as I have found that they make a world of difference in terms of both the functionality of the drone and how to pleasant they are to pilot.
Some of these are common to any type of drone but I have put a particular twist on the elements so that we can stay focused on the drones application for roof inspections.
The size of the drone is very important because it will determine how easy it is to carry from jobsite to jobsite and will also determine how stable the drone is in the air while it is above the house or building.
You should have a look for the folded size of the drone and enquire as to whether or not it comes in its very own carry case. Having a small drone with its own protection for transport means that it is much easier and safer to carry the drone with you.
You can opt for a bigger drone, such as the DJI Phantom series drone, but it just means that you will need a bigger dedicated backpack or a hard carry case which has been specifically designed to carry that drone.
Also, the bigger drones will be more stable in strong winds. If you are using a drone for an add-on service choosing a small drone such as the DJI Mavic mini 2 will allow you to quickly and easily take photographs and video of a roof. It will not provide excellent wind stability – that’s where the bigger and more expensive drones come in to the equation.
Battery life is less of a concern if you are using your drone for roof inspections. Because you are likely to be taking off near the area that you will be inspecting you do not need to worry about the battery life unless it is under 10 minutes.
All of the drones in this list have a flight time of more than 25 minutes which allows you plenty of time to capture high-quality footage and videos of the roof.
Because you are not too far away from your takeoff and landing spot investing in another battery allows you to fly for much longer.
Roofs are far from flat and featureless. Making sure that you purchase a drone which is able to navigate and safely identify any hazardous features during the flight will ensure that your drone will fly another day.
The more expensive drones, like the Autel Evo 2, have a 360° sensing ability. This allows the drone to completely map out its environment and will enable the drone to make decisions about where it will not go.
Some of the less expensive drones, like the DJI Mavic mini 2, only have limited sensing. I have the DJI Mavic air and I find that the lack of sideways sensing always makes me feel a little bit uneasy so I tend to not move sideways if I cannot see completely around drone through line of sight.
Some drones have forward and backward sensors which means that you’d be better positioned moving forward and backwards whilst on the roof space so that you can be sure that your catch any of the obstacles with the sensors.
If you are doing roof inspections you want the highest quality camera that you can afford on your drone.
Unlike other forms of technology a drone typically comes with a fixed camera which you are not able to upgrade without upgrading the drone.
You should purchase the best quality drone and camera combination you can afford as this will allow you to digitally enhance the photos and video by zooming in in postproduction and not losing any quality.
We are less worried about high dynamic range or colour profiles – like you would with a drone for cinematography purposes – but having a good quality sensor and optical components such as lenses will make the photo and video quality much better.
All of the drones on the list, above, have been selected because they contain some form of zoom. The zoom can be optical or digital but allow the operator to get a closer look at the roof without having to get physically closer with the drone. This makes the drone flight safer and it allows the pilot a degree of freedom when selecting which parts of the roof to photograph. It minimises the amount of air travel the drone has to do to get images of different parts of the roof structure.
Only one of the drones on the list has an optical zoom whilst all of them have some form of digital zoom capability. But what exactly is the difference between the two – let’s take a quick look at that now.
Optical vs digital zoom
Optical zoom is where the drone camera uses physical properties of a series of lens to magnify distant objects. For example, a telescope – used by pirates – is an example of optical zoom.
The optical zoom uses lenses with long focal lengths relative to the camera sensor size.
Digital zoom is essentially cropping a photo so the objects appear larger. No additional image information is captured (for example no extra pixels are captured). If you zoom too far into a digital image you will start to see pixelation.
There is a way to get around the pixelation caused by digital zoom such as using high-resolution sensors, pixel binning – when you combine multiple pixels to form an image, and also using artificial intelligence and machine learning to automatically increase the quality of the digitally zoomed in images.
The combination of optical and digital zoom gives you the ability to zooming even further than would be achievable on their own.
For roofing applications you will not be getting too far away from the roof and therefore any digital zooming will be more than enough to ensure that the image is easy to view and you are able to identify any problem areas with the roof structure.
First person view on a drone is actually essential for flying the drone safely. Every drone in this list has a first person view camera which is live streamed to the controller which allows you to see what the drone is doing in real-time.
The great thing about this first person view is that you will also be able to use drone goggles to put yourself in the pilot seat.
The great thing about first person view is that you can immediately see the areas of interest and allow you to investigate further during your roof inspection.
Thermal imaging is a powerful module which drones are able to fly right where you need them.
You can use a thermal imaging camera on a roof to look for areas where heat escapes and also for solar panel inspections so that you can see if there are any hot connections which would be making the solar panel energy transfer less efficient.
The only drone on this list which has a thermal module is the Parrot Anafi drone.
Drone roof inspection types:
There are many reasons why you may want to buy a drone for roof inspections. Perhaps you are a handyman who wants to offer more services to their client. The DJI Mavic mini 2 will be one of the best things you can buy which allows you to give incredible service to your clients.
If you are a building inspector getting something a little bit more professional will be required and the parrot Anafi with thermal imaging capabilities will allow you to stand out from your competition.
Here are some of the ways that you can use your drone to inspect a roof – it’s far more varied than you may think!
The first thing we think about when we think about using a drone for doing roof inspections is roof condition. Getting a drone above the roof and able to look down on the tiles or panelling is one of the best uses of a drone for roofing.
Making sure that you can zoom in on all of the important aspects of the roof – using either optical or digital zoom – means that you don’t have to get too close to the roof to inspect it.
You can also inspect things like the chimney stack, aerials, and things like air-conditioners and water heaters. Combined with the internal photographs of a roof this is a powerful combination of services for any inspector.
The great news is that you can easily add this service to your product offering by purchasing a simple drone like the DJI Mavic 2. You don’t even need to register or get a pilots license for flying this drone.
One of the most powerful applications that these drones have is the ability to thermally analyse the roof of a house. This means you’ll be able to check for thermal leakage and ways to improve the heat trapped in the house.
It also allows you to see if there are any hot spots on solar panels or other appliances such as air-conditioning units for solar hot water units. Being able to directly identify any issues with heating electronics or heat leakages is very valuable information for any homeowner or commercial property owner.
Purchase the DJI parrot Anafi thermal if you are serious about getting pixel level thermal data from your drone.
Solar panel inspection
More and more people are purchasing solar panels for their house as well as businesses. Getting to the solar panel after it is installed requires the use of ladders and, if you are doing a commercial service, licenses and permits for working at heights.
Using a drone to inspect solar panel installations and cleanliness is a cost-effective way of getting around any legislation.
You can also use thermal imaging to see if the wiring of the solar panels is adequate.
Using the drone imagery you can look for cleanliness of the solar panels as well as any potential issues in their installation – whether electrical or physical – for example, any sagging due to the extra weight of the solar panels and the infrastructure on the roof.
Gutters and water
I know, as a homeowner, that inspecting the gutters for leaf litter and other debris can save me a ton of issues and leaking problems when winter hits.
I have a tree right next to my house which drops a load of leaves in autumn and causes the grooves to back up in winter.
I use my drone to check the gutters of my house, regularly. It saves me the added issue of getting up onto the roof if they do not need to be cleared for also gives me the ability to check them without risking falling from heights.
You can also use any of the drones in this list for checking the leaf litter in the gutters of the roof.
Antennas regularly fall over in high wind and rain. It’s not always obvious that they have fallen over and you can use a drone to go and check on them if you notice any issues with the TV signal.
Using the zoom function of the drones in the above list you can also zoom in to check the quality of the nuts and bolts holding the antenna to the roof.
Once again, using a drone instead of a person to check on the antenna will minimise the risk of slips and falls.