Roofing Industry And Drones – A Match Made In The Heavens.

The construction industry is embracing drone technology like no other sector right now. They are being deployed to monitor the progress of construction projects, create accurate site maps, and even calculate stock-pile levels. Drones equipped with different cameras are making swift work of complex tasks and are reducing work-related injuries at the same time. The roofing industry is leading the way in regards to non-destructive testing using drones – we explore how they are doing this, and why.

How can drones be used effectively in the roofing industry?

There are many use cases for drones as part of a successful roofing project. You may want to create centimetre-accurate measurements for planning a solar installation or capturing high-resolution images to carry out a visual inspection, or as we will discuss in this article, you may wish to deploy a drone with thermal imaging capabilities to identify areas of water ingress or poor insulation in a roof.

How does thermal imaging work?

When any object heats up above absolute zero, which is -273.15 degrees C, its molecules start to get active and rub together. This activity creates thermal radiation, also called Infrared. The thermal imaging camera records the radiation in its sensor and converts this into an image that our eyes can see. It also converts the data into temperature readings which are accurate to around 0.1 degrees C.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

There is a common misconception that thermal imaging cameras can see through the surface of a roof to give you a view of the materials below. The thermal imaging camera is showing you the temperature of the surface that you are focussing on, and its temperature is affected by what is below. This is because heat is transferred between materials.

Materials, liquids, and gasses heat up and cool down at different rates, measured by calculating their ‘Specific Heat Capacity’ value. Therefore, temperature differences across the surface of a roof can provide insights into the condition. As you can see in the chart below, water holds its heat much longer than a lot of other materials.

roofing and thermal imaging

What issues can a thermal imaging sensor detect within a flat roof structure?

By using a thermal imaging camera to pinpoint areas of temperature difference you can assess whether the area of the roof is suffering from water ingress or not. Similarly, under certain conditions, you can also locate poorly installed or defective insulation without needing to remove anything.

Construction companies are using this data for several purposes:

  • Detecting and identifying issues within a roof structure without destructive investigation
  • Providing accurate cost estimates for repair or replacement when bidding for new business
  • Providing post-project evidence that insulation has been installed effectively
  • Identifying any additional issues such as air gaps or cracked skylights that can be rectified, providing added value to their client
  • Providing accurate assessments to insurance companies as part of a claim.
Missing roof insulation

Why are roofing contractors partnering with drone operators to gather this data?

Firstly, there are health and safety considerations. In 2020/21, the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) recorded that 27% of work-related fatal injuries were in the construction industry, and 89% of those were due to falls from height. Buildings with difficult access and no edge protection are common, so why put people in harm’s way if you do not need to. If the survey is part of a routine inspection, it could also prove costly to deploy ropes, scaffolding, edge protection, and other measures, to find there are no issues.

Adding to that, if the roof is being investigated for suspected water ingress you cannot guarantee the integrity of the structure and would not want people up there without understanding its condition in more detail.

As well as reducing the risk of injury, drones are also able to carry out these types of inspections in a fraction of the time of a manual inspection. Flying at height, you can capture data of a larger area and can record thermograms, video, and photos at the same time, which means you can compare images to mark out areas of interest or to zoom in and view specific issues, providing your client with detailed reports.

Thermal imaging and drone technology is certainly making an impression on the roofing industry and is helping construction companies make better decisions based on data and this trend is set to continue.

Why choose Skyball Visuals for thermal roof inspections?

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.

We deploy commercial-grade drones equipped with leading high-resolution thermal imaging sensors and our mission is to provide the best possible data, every time.

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

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