For most people, you really don’t need to do anything fancy! I was thinking about the use case for drones in roof inspections when I was at my mom’s house in Missouri over the weekend. (I live in a condo building in San Francisco, so no need for me to do my own roof inspections here!).
The best roof inspection drone for most people
For most roof inspectors, all you want is a relatively small drone that is stable, easy to fly, can get close to the roof, is safe, and offers both a live video feed and generates high qualities images or video that can be saved.
If you need an enterprise-grade drone for roof inspections
Roof inspections can get fancy. You could add a thermal camera (particularly if you have solar panels on your roof). If you had a huge roof and needed to fly the exact same route every time, you might want to use software such as Skycatch, which could even generate a map for you. DroneDeploy has gone further developing its own software called Roof Report that can collect drone imagery and generate accurate roof measurements and reports in a matter of hours. If that’s you, you’re looking at spending potentially many thousands of dollars.
If you just need to be able to see the roof, then you can easily find a drone that costs less than $800 including camera, and offers at least 20 minutes of flight time. The drones listed below are capable of tasks such as checking for leaks and the condition of your shingles and chimney.
(If you need to do more advanced roof inspections that involve things like solar panels or complicated datasets, scroll down for more recommendations.)
All of these drones can hover and maintain their position, so in theory you could get a good look at the roof while also controlling the drone (with a spotter of course). But there may be instances where it is significantly safer and easier to have a dual-controller for your drone. A dual controller allows one person to pilot the drone, while the other person can closely look at the live video feed and control the camera, to actually conduct the inspection.
Here are some (slightly more expensive) options if you need a dual controller:
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom ($1,499): If you need to see a roof and can’t fly close to it, or if you can fly close, but just need extremely granular detail, you’ll want the Mavic 2 Zoom, which is exactly what it sounds like: it has a zoom lens. The Mavic 2 Zoom is powered by a 1/2.3 inch 12-megapixel sensor with up to four-times zoom, including a two-times optical zoom (24mm–48mm).
DJI Matrice with Zenmuse XT2 ($3,000+): If you need a thermal camera, this is likely your best bet. The Zenmuse XT2 is a thermal camera (based on FLIR’s Tau 2 thermal sensor), combined with a 4K visual camera. FLIR thermal sensors reveal details invisible to the naked eye by making subtle differences in temperature visible. That’s particularly useful if you’re inspecting a roof with, say, solar panels, or need to assess a building in the immediate aftermath of a fire.
You can mount the dual camera onto drones from either DJI’s M200 Series, M200 Series V2 or M600 Pro drones. Each drone in that series has slightly different capabilities, but all those drones are highly powerful, letting you fly in rougher conditions including a strong breeze or light rain, allowing you to customize them, and often carrying heavier payloads.