Case Study: Church Roof Inspection Using A Drone.

Drones have come a long way in recent years and are now being widely adopted for different purposes, not least inspection tasks. This case study looks at how a church roof inspection using a drone revealed some interesting findings, that if left unnoticed could have caused significant damage.

All Saints Church, Sheepy Magna, sits in a rural village in the county of Leicestershire. The church was rebuilt in 1778, although it is thought the original building dated back to 1150.

We were recently in touch with Reverend Julia Hargreaves and Neil Jones, who looks after the maintenance of the church, who were keen to carry out a roof inspection. The tower had access issues and had not been properly looked at for a couple of years. The village had also endured some heavy storms over the winter so it was felt a general inspection would be beneficial.

Why use drones?

Drones are becoming an important tool for inspection tasks when used responsibly and they present a number of benefits over the traditional methods.

Health & Safety – by deploying drones for inspections you no longer have to put somebody’s health and safety at risk. No more climbing ladders or walking across potentially unstable surfaces. With traditional inspection methods, you might install scaffolding or edge protection, or you may even use ropes. All of these methods come with risk and expense. A church roof inspection using a drone mitigates both.

Accidental damage – above we mentioned scaffolding, edge protection, ropes and ladders – all of these have the potential to cause damage to the building. Churches are usually centuries old and some of the materials, such as tiles, can be brittle and subject to damage. By using drones there is no need to touch any external surface of the building, whether that is a wall or a roof.

Ease of inspection – churches can be very complex structures with parapets, valleys, towers, and spires, and they are likely to have multiple elevations and pitches. To get up onto the roof and navigate these features is risky. A drone operated by an experienced pilot can easily fly around all of these features and collect the required data to be analysed back on the ground.

Data types – drones can be equipped with many different sensors which means the type of data collected can range from photos, videos, thermal images, point clouds, and more, which combined can give you a very clear picture of what is happening up on the church roof.

There are several other benefits of drone-based inspections – you can read about some of them here.

Time for a church roof inspection using a drone

Having carried out a risk assessment of the local area including identifying any overhead cables, trees, and any other obstructions that could cause an accident, and subsequently checking any flight restrictions currently in place in the area, we were able to prepare the takeoff and landing point.

As the church is a public space we placed warning signs at each entrance and marked out a takeoff and landing area. Once the flight brief was completed and all checks to the aircraft and controller were completed we were able to get the drone into the air.

When carrying out a church roof inspection using a drone there is a set flying pattern that we like to use that ensures all surfaces and gutters are captured. We will record a video of the entire flight in 4K which can be analysed when back on the ground. We will also capture still images of anything that immediately jumps out as a potential issue. Our drones are equipped with zoom lenses meaning we never have to get too close to the church itself and risk causing any damage.

Once we were confident that all surfaces had been recorded we ensured the landing site was clear and we brought the drone safely back down to earth.

Below you can see a collection of images that highlight some previously unknown issues.

What issues did the drone inspection identify?

We noted the condition of the lead around the tower was in great condition, however, we spotted two tiles that had slipped and were at low risk of causing water ingress.

The ridge line tiles were all in good condition with no issues found.

We noticed there was a tile completely missing from one section which would almost certainly be causing water ingress and potentially damaging the structure below. We spotted part of a tile sitting in the gutter, this could have been part of the missing tile but it was not clear. Either way, this needs to be looked at and replaced.

A further issue was pinpointed further along the same elevation where a tile had slipped and was resting in the gutter. This poses more than one issue – firstly there is a risk that water would be seeping in below the tiles and secondly the loose tile is at risk of falling and potentially causing injury to anybody below.

Finally, we found that one of the gutters was completely blocked at one end which will be causing rainwater to run off over the edges and down the surface of the walls. This is a prime cause of dampness in the building.

So, whilst our findings were not severe there were certainly some issues that if left for longer would certainly develop into more serious problems or cause injury to somebody. The data and all findings were written into a report and presented to Neil who was extremely grateful.

How can we help you with a church roof inspection using a drone?

Hopefully, this case study has highlighted the benefits of using drones for church roof inspections and we would be happy to discuss our offering. We heavily discount our inspection service for churches as we understand how important these buildings are to the local community and we would like to see them preserved in great condition for many more years to come.

Don’t forget, regular inspections like this can be a great way of spotting potential issues before they occur so don’t always wait for a problem to happen, or for your quinquennial inspection, before acting.

Who are Skyball Visuals Ltd?

Skyball Visuals are a drone services business located in Leicestershire. We are licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to carry out commercial flight operations and we adhere to very strict safety standards to ensure that all our flights are low risk and do not pose a danger to your employees, your property and uninvolved persons.

We are fully insured with industry-specific public liability insurance of at least £5m, although I am pleased to say we have never needed it.

Call us on 0800 774 7140 or use the form below and we’ll get back to you.

Find out more about what we do.

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