If you are a roofing contractor and you aren’t using drones to help with inspections and marketing, you are missing out on some great tech that could save your company time and money and increase roofing sales. Today’s drone technology allows roofers to complete more site inspections for less cost, and do it safer than traditional methods. Those cost and time savings translate into more sales and higher profits, and the technology can also be used to enhance your roofing company marketing.
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Roofing contractors can use drones to help them make more sales, save on estimating costs, and improve safety.
“Look, [drone technology] is going to grow your business, and it’s also going to make it easier to hire people. We’ve got people looking at us now, and one of the things that attracted them is we’re doing all inspections with the drone. This is a roofing company that’s going somewhere.” Chad Conley, executive vice president of Complete Roofing
“A drone over Ladhope Recreation Ground, Galashiels” by Walter Baxter is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
How Drones Can Help Save Money
Estimates cost less
With current inspection methods, it takes one or two people to inspect a potential job. Workers must be physically able to climb a ladder and have enough knowledge and experience to know what to look for when it comes to roof damage.
Looking at the costs of a traditional site inspection, there’s the truck, equipment (ladders and harnesses), fuel, labor, and benefits. And you must find workers that can do the work and have the required knowledge. That’s not easy in today’s labor market.
With drone technology, one person in a small truck or even a car could visit a potential job. There’s no additional equipment necessary, and less labor costs. Operators stay on the ground and fly the drone remotely while watching a monitor. Finding workers who can fly drones is easier than finding someone physically fit with the required roofing experience.
With the proper software, the drone operator doesn’t even need to know what roof damage looks like. The operator simply flies the drone in a set pattern and records the results. The video is sent back to the office, where a more experienced estimator reviews the footage and puts together the price. Roofing estimates can be completed in a matter of an hour or two, with less manpower and at less cost.
Inspections are safer
Climbing up ladders onto pitched roofs is a dangerous job. A 2014 study by Moore & Wagner showed that residential roofing continues to be a fatal business, and not all companies always take the necessary precautions or adhere to safety requirements to keep their workers safe. Buildings with multiple stories and high-pitched roofs are especially difficult to inspect safely.
With drones doing the heavy lifting, however, the operator never has to leave the ground. In a few short minutes the drone can be several stories up conducting its inspection. The operator doesn’t need fall protection, a hard hat, or steel-toed boots to do their job and stay safe. This saves on safety equipment and potential lost time due to injuries or falls.
Taking a few still pictures from a phone camera won’t always offer enough detail to tell what kind of damage has occurred. Zoom capabilities aren’t the greatest on phones, and the terrain may not allow for close-up shots of damaged areas on foot.
Drone cameras can shoot both still pictures and video, and some can even provide infrared imaging. The operator can see what the drone sees and adjust the shot in real time to capture a certain area or zoom in on an issue. Infrared imaging shows the operator water damage that may not be visible to the naked eye. It may be possible to trace the damage to the water’s source using this type of imaging.
Drones use GPS coordinates to take extremely accurate measurements of an area without the need for a tape measure. All this information allows your team to provide more accurate estimates and better information and images to your customers and their insurance companies.
How Drones Can Help Increase Sales
Speed up the bidding process
One employee can put together an estimate using a drone in a matter of minutes. Compare this to an hour or more to climb onto the roof, make the inspection and take photos, take measurements, then write out the estimate.
After a drone inspection is complete, the images are sent to the office where an experienced estimator reviews them and does the take-off based on the measurements provided by the drone. These measurements are more accurate than those done in the field, as human error is no longer a factor.
A bid is quickly written up and emailed to the customer. The whole process can be done in less than an hour, and the drone operator is already on to the next site. This allows your company to bid more work per day and get more sales.
Get better data
You can get high-quality images of damaged areas using a drone and the latest in imaging technology that you can’t get from a person on the roof. Since the drone can hover directly over the damaged part of the roof and get at it from multiple angles, it is possible to get views that were not possible before.
Infrared imaging technology allows operators to see even old water damage while doing a roof inspection. Using the images, water can be traced to its source, helping your company target leak repairs to that spot. It is also possible to see the real extent of the damage, even what is not visible to the naked eye.
Software is also available that can analyze images for signs of damage, looking for the smallest areas that a human eye may miss. This can help prevent future damage and ensure that everything is fixed in one trip.
Marketing and Social Media
Photos and videos from drones make excellent roofing marketing collateral for your company. Potential customers want to see before and after photos and videos of damage similar to their situation. Knowing that you can professionally resolve an issue like theirs will give them confidence that you can repair their problem as well. You can illustrate to your customers exactly what needs to be done and why it needs to be done a certain way using these images.
Images and video from drones are also great for social media posts. Show the before and after of some major storm damage or shoot some video of your crew working on a project. When people see customers with similar problems using your company, they will be more inclined to hire you.
Also, internet viewers love video of things being demolished, so shoot a few seconds and watch it go viral.
Points to consider when starting out with drones
Drones are great for the roofing industry, but you shouldn’t jump in without thinking things through first. Here are some topics to consider before moving forward.
Before shooting video or photos from a drone you will need the homeowner’s permission. Many states and localities have strict privacy laws that govern the images that can be taken on private property, so make sure you know the laws in your area. You will want to consult with an attorney to create a form that the homeowner signs giving you permission to take images of their roof and use them for marketing purposes.
DIY or hire someone?
You can fly the drone yourself or hire a contractor to do it for you. Depending on how much the contractor costs, and what software and imaging extras they offer, you may be better off hiring it out. If you are the hands-on type, take some time to learn all you can because it is not as simple as just buying a drone and flying it. It takes hours of practice and there are additional costs to consider.
The initial cost, purchasing a drone and batteries, can be $1,000 or more. Additional costs include practice time, software and hardware needed to keep the drone performing well (extra batteries, drone parts, GPS software, infrared camera and software, etc.), pilot training, permits, and insurance. When you add it all up, it can be quite expensive. Gather information on all the costs before you decide whether to proceed.
You must be licensed through the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) with a Remote Pilot Certificate before you can fly a drone commercially. To get the certificate you must study for the test by reviewing materials provided by the FAA, then pass a Knowledge Test focused on airspace management and unmanned aerial vehicle regulations. The test is taken at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.
For most drone flights you won’t have to file an official flight plan with the FAA, but there are some instances when that will be necessary, especially around major airports. You’ll need to be aware of these requirements and communicate with the authorities on your intentions. You’ll learn more about this in the FAA training.
Drone tech can be a valuable asset for roofing companies that want to be on the cutting edge. It allows your team to look at more potential jobs in a shorter period of time with less potential for safety issues. The images the drone provides can be used in marketing and social media posts. This can help get your company recognized as one of the premiere contractors because you are using the latest technology.
However, drones aren’t without their drawbacks, mainly costs, training, and practice time. It might be worthwhile to hire a professional operator as a contractor for a few months and see how it goes, then you can bring it in house if the ROI pencils out. Either way it pays to look at using drones to advance your roofing business.