Thermographic Roof Surveys – Why Use Drones?

A thermographic roof survey is the process of inspecting a roof for damage and leaks by using thermal imaging. This can be done with a drone to provide a safer and more efficient inspection. Traditional methods of conducting a roof survey might involve ladders, scaffolding, cranes, ropes, edge protection, and other safety equipment. However, with the use of drones, all of this can be avoided. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of using drones for thermographic roof surveys and why they are better than traditional methods.

What are thermographic roof surveys?

Thermal imaging, or thermography, is the use of thermal radiation to produce an image of objects. This is done by capturing the infrared radiation that is emitted from an object. When looking at a roof, this infrared radiation can be used to detect damage and leaks in the roofing material.

When looking at a roof, the temperature differences that the camera highlights can indicate a number of things. It can identify air leaks where there might be gaps in materials, it can pinpoint areas of poor insulation and thermal bridging, and most critically it can indicate where there are leaks.

How can a thermal image locate water ingress?

There is a misconception that thermal imaging can see through material but this is not true. It simply shows us the surface temperature, but this alone can help us to locate leaks.

Imagine a flat roof that has been leaking and the material below the surface layer has become wet. The sun heats it up, but because it is wet it heats up slower than the surface layer. Similarly, when the sun sets it cools down, but because water holds temperature well, it will cool down slower than its surrounding materials. These differences in temperatures are what the thermographic survey will capture and, when analysed by a Category 1 Certified Thermographer, can provide a clear picture of potential issues.

Thermographic roof survey

Did you know that drones can now carry out thermographic roof surveys?

Drone technology has come a long way in the last few years. Advances in the drones themselves have only been out shadowed by the sensors that they carry. In the case of thermographic surveys the sensor used is a thermal imaging camera. There are a few available that can be attached to a drone but in order to obtain quality data there are some minimum specifications in terms of resolution and refresh rates that need to be considered. The Zenmuse XT2 is an industry standard for drone thermography surveys.

Combined with a high quality zoom camera you are able to cover a lot of roof in a very short amount of time and, when you spot areas of concern, you can utilise the zoom camera to take high-resolution images of the areas for further inspection. Record the footage in video or still images, either way the radiometric capabilities of the data mean you can take temperature readings from them in post processing.

Why are drone thermographic surveys better than traditional methods?

There are many reasons why thermographic roof surveys using drones are better than traditional methods.

Some of these reasons include:

Faster – it is much faster and more efficient to inspect a roof with a drone than it is to do so using traditional methods. You are able to pre-plan your flight path and set intervals to capture your data. Once you have completed your flight safety checks, simply hit take-off and the drone does the rest. A large warehouse roof can be overflown and recorded in just a few minutes.

Safer – it is much safer to carry out a thermographic roof survey using a drone than it is to use ladders or scaffolding. This is because there is no need for workers to be on the roof, which can be dangerous. There is no need for you to undertake complicated risk-assessments, as the drone operator takes care of that as part of their obligations under CAA regulations and best practices.

Better quality data – as well as spotting differences in temperatures visually, with the right camera you can take temperature readings at any given spot. You can measure temperature ranges as well as average temperatures over a given surface area. All of this data combined gives a great insight into the condition of a particular structure.

Thermal image roof

Can anybody undertake a thermographic roof survey?

In theory yes, however, the technology can be expensive and the data needs to be collected and interpreted, taking into account many scientific factors such as material emissivity, ambient temperatures, relative humidity, atmospheric pressure, source radiation, and more. You really need to be an ISO 18435+ Certified Thermographer to fully analyse and conclude a full thermal data set effectively.

In addition to this, if you wanted to collect the data using drones you would need to undertake CAA regulated training, pass flight assessments, and obtain approved insurance, all to ensure that your data is collected as safely and as responsibly as possible.

Finding a licensed drone services provider that is also a Category 1 Certified Thermographer is also not easy, so why not speak to us to see how we can help your business to find meaning in the data we collect.

How can we help your business?

Are you a commercial property owner who would like a thermographic roof survey carried out using drone technology? Do you have a leak that you cannot pinpoint, or perhaps are suffering with high energy bills due to poor insulation or air gaps?

Or perhaps you are a roofing contractor who wants to form a partnership to offer quicker and safer inspections, diagnostics and job estimating?

Either way, why not get in touch using the form below to see how Skyball Visuals can help. 

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

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