• Paul F. P. Pogue

Drones Give Home Inspectors Bird's-eye View

Drones make checking hard-to-reach places, such as steep roofs, much easier for home inspectors and insurance agents.

With new rules for drone piloting making headlines and companies that sell goods online musing about the possibility of drone-based delivery, the tiny, unmanned aerial vehicles seem to be gaining traction that goes beyond recreational use.

Although hordes of drones buzzing by to deliver consumer goods to your doorstep may be years away, home inspectors use them now to get aerial photos and video of hard-to-reach places, delivering better results and saving clients money in the process.

Glenn Fricke, owner of DG Construction and Inspections in St. Petersburg, Florida, says he first investigated using drones in 2012. He says he was one of the earliest to adopt the technology and wrote extensively on it for the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.

“I was kind of ridiculed at the time, but as technology has advanced and prices have come down, more people are seeing the value in it,” he says.

With a camera-equipped drone, Fricke takes high-quality images of rooftops and other hard-to-reach places that previously required either a ladder or lift to access – if he could get there at all. The drone helps him complete the job much more effectively and faster.

He says current technology allows for smooth piloting, and operators can see images and video in real time via tablets or smartphoness mounted on the remote control unit. He deploys the drone a few times a month on average, he says, and doesn’t charge extra for its use.

“It’s part of our standard inspection package,” he says. “You don’t want to look a client in the eye and say, ‘Hey, I can’t evaluate your roof.’”

This aerial photo shows the image produced by a drone after flying over a hard-to-reach rooftop.

Glenford Blanc, owner of Pro-Spex Home Inspection Services in Laurel, Maryland, says he’s been using a drone for about five months in cases where roofs are too steep or high to send a person up to inspect. “We’re not like roofers; we don’t carry around 30-foot ladders,” he says. “It’s about delivering more to the customer and keeping our inspectors safe.”

Orlando Angie’s List member Kareem Weller says Dominic D’Agostino, owner of Longwood, Florida-based Home Pride Inspection Services, effectively used the drone to augment an inspection on a house he was planning to buy.

“He had all the tools required to finish his work in the best way possible,” he says. “An infrared scanner showed us the inside of the walls, and the drone flew over the two-story roof to assess it and take pictures. It safely found a few worn shingles and broken tree branches on the roof that needed to be removed.”