To use a drone or not use a drone, that is the question.  It is a very hot topic on discussion forums for home inspectors because it is a potential tool that may change the way that roofs are inspected.  It is a tool that provides visual access to the top of a chimney on a steep roof.  It is a tool that can keep the inspector grounded when the pitch of the roof is steep and dangerous.  It is a tool however, that can be very dangerous if not run by a trained professional.  If you request an inspection and an inspector wants to use a drone to inspect your future home there is much information that you need to obtain before you agree to this type of inspection.

Before I start, I must warn you that I am a drone advocate and I am investing 1000’s of dollars and hundreds of hours building a professional grade drone just to learn how they work. I am currently creating protocol and procedures for inspecting homes safely to obtain detailed high-end video evidence of the condition of each roof.  I have recorded over 50 hours of flight time learning how to use all the flight and safety modes that would benefit a home inspection.   I do not intend to do an official drone inspection until I have mastered every component associated with the flight.  I truly believe that it is the future of roof inspections and I want to be an active and knowledgeable advocate of the promotion of this tool.

You, the future homeowner, need to be concerned and informed about the drone inspection process.  I will use a simple list format to get the job done.

#1) The best method for roof inspection is walking the roof and getting a close-up hands-on and feet-on examination of the entire roof and associated roof penetrations.  Understand that a drone is just another tool that can be used to inspect a roof.  It does not mean that it is always the best option.

#2) Ask the inspector to see the FAA sUAS Certificate that is attached to the drone and verify that the certificate holder name is the same as your inspectors.  This certificate is proof that the drone is registered with the FAA, which is a very simple quick certificate that every drone owner is required to obtain.  An inspector who uses an unregistered drone most likely does not own additional drone insurance.

#3) Ask the inspector for proof of drone insurance. Just because a drone is registered does not mean that the inspector has insurance coverage.  My regular home inspection insurance policy does not cover accidents and damaged caused by drones.

#4) If an inspector charges extra for a drone inspection they are required to earn the FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification. The FAA Part 107 Exam requires about 80 hours of preparation to pass, so many inspectors do not obtain the certification. Note: An inspector can use a drone as long as they have insurance and the drone is registered with the FAA, but they can’t profit/charge for drone service. So bottom line, if you are charged extra for a drone inspection or any drone service request the inspector to so his or her FAA Part 107 ID badge and make sure the credentials are not expired. Previously, I earn a 333 Exemption which was the predecessor to the FAA Part 107 Certification. I just recently passed my FAA Part 107 Exam and I am currently waiting on my credentials.

#5) Does the Drone have a built in return-home safety feature(s)?  Most of the newer drones come with one or more safety return home flight options.  If the inspector can not explain how, when, and why it works then It would be best to cancel the drone inspection.

#6)  Ask to see an example video of a previous drone roof inspection.  I have watched over 50 of these videos online and most are very low grade.  Which makes one wonder about the quality of the inspection.  The majority of these videos were on roofs that were very walkable, which make one wonder if the inspector is trying to avoid getting the ladder out of the truck.  If the video quality is poor then it may be better to request a ladder inspection, assuming that it is safe for the inspector.

I am now done making you nervous about drone inspections and drone inspectors.  After all, I have been dreaming of inspecting houses with a drone for over two years now.   The drones are becoming easier to fly and camera systems are now being specially built for drone and aerial photography.  The extra regulations are slowing this future explosion of drone inspection just enough that safety protocol and procedures can be developed in the home inspection industry.  Drones provide an inspector with another tool that, when situation arises, provides the best visual inspection.

I honestly love the complexities and sophistication of drones and their applications.  I believe that any inspector that just pulls a drone out of the box and start flying it without completely reading the instruction manual and exploring all the flight options is not representing our profession in a positive way.   An analogy would be the inspector who purchases a Multifunctional Digital Multimeter Voltmeter and only learns how to use one function.

What I am trying to say, is that if your inspector can not provide you the proper information, documentation, and answer questions related to my information provided above, then do not let them do a drone inspection.

But do know, drones are here to stay and they will become as common as the ladder.

Future Drone Home Inspector: Anthony Verbsky

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