Taking off

Drones are becoming a valuable tool for roofing contractors

Roofing companies are using drones for many reasons; they are efficient for gathering roof system information and help workers stay safe by remaining on the ground. Thanks to drone technology, roofing contractors can inspect, estimate, bid, sell and plan roofing work without stepping onto a property.

An evolving industry

Many roofing contractors say they have plenty of work but finding experienced labor is a challenge. To keep up with roofing projects, you need ways to help your workers be more productive. Drones can help by streamlining tedious tasks such as finding roof system damage and taking roof measurements.

Property owners also are more demanding than ever. According to Microsoft Corp.’s 2019 State of Global Customer Service Report, 95% of people say customer service is essential to brand loyalty and 61% of people never will do business with a company after a single bad experience. When it comes to winning business and retaining customers, you have to get everything right the first time. Drones help you provide customers with the accurate data they expect from a roofing professional.

In addition, climate change means more storms and more work are coming. According to NASA: “The intensity, frequency, and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s.”

To keep up with storm claims, insurance companies already are adopting drones. Travelers’ Claim University has estimated 550 certified pilots fly drones to estimate claims. And large insurance carriers such as State Farm® deployed drone technologies to handle claims demand following 2017 and 2018 storms and will continue to do so. Insurance carriers are advancing their technologies, and they expect companies that work with them to do the same.


With industry challenges compounding competitive pressures in your market, the effectiveness of your sales process matters. Bidding and selling without using drones only will get you so far. When you use a drone solution, the following are possible to amplify your sales process.

Produce more bids

Many roofing contractors canvass areas following storms and weather events or in neighborhoods with older homes that need roof systems replaced. These processes require quick inspections and quality information to provide homeowners. According to a 2018 case study, How Elevated and IMGING Bring Roofing Into the Digital World, conducted by my company, Loveland Innovations, when you adopt a drone solution, you can produce two to three times as many bids using the same number of employees.

Cavnass more affordably

Some drones make it possible for anyone to gather information on a job site. Instead of hiring a seasoned estimator, a drone makes it possible for your workers who may not have drone experience to canvass homes and create polished, effective bids. Some roofing contractors have a dedicated drone estimator; others hire a college student part-time to canvass as commercial drone work has become a popular source of income for hobbyists. The point is a drone creates more flexibility in terms of who you send to visit homeowners as you generate leads and make sales.

Provide higher-quality data

Your bids are only as good as your data. Homeowners and building owners (and often insurance carriers) need to see what caused roof system damage, the extent of the damage and the costs to repair it. Drones gather incredibly high-quality data and never get tired or frustrated. After a quick drone flight, your salespeople can view and share measurements and imagery detection. This information arms your sales team with all the information they need to help homeowners and building owners understand the conditions of their roof systems so they can move forward with repairs. With detailed drone imagery, your customers will know they’re trusting a market leader.

Reduce risk

When drones get everything a roofing contractor needs from the sky, there’s no need for estimators to get on a roof, which reduces safety risks for employees and financial risks for employers. Depending on your workers’ compensation classifications, it may be possible to move your estimators from the roofing classification to the sales classification. This could save your company thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation premiums.

Getting started

Before you can reap the benefits of a drone solution, you will need the following:

  • Hardware: You need a drone and a controller. Accessories such as multiple batteries or car chargers are optional but will increase your company’s capacity.
  • Software: Most drones are built with basic software for manual flight. To get more value from your solution, consider working with a vendor that can provide a full platform to help you move from measurements to bids to closing sales.
  • Pilot certificate: The Federal Aviation Administration regulates commercial drone flights under CFR 14 Part 107. To fly a drone, you need a Remote Pilot Certificate you can obtain from the FAA by passing a Knowledge Test. The Knowledge Test focuses on airspace management and unmanned aerial vehicle regulations.

In general, there are two ways to get started with drones. You can do it yourself, or you can work with a vendor.

Do it yourself

If you go out on your own, you’ll essentially be buying a drone off the shelf to fly manually. It’s affordable but limited. Do you want a flying camera, or do you want something more advanced? Following are some things to consider if you opt to DIY:

  • Cost: Buying a drone off a shelf is an affordable way to get started with drone technology. With quality hardware starting around $1,000, this may be a good option for a limited technology budget.
  • Images only: With manual flight, data is limited to images and videos.
  • Manual measurements: An off-the-shelf drone won’t provide roof measurements, which means you’ll still need to purchase measurement reports or measure manually.
  • Learning curve: Because a manual solution requires you to fly on your own, expect to spend some time understanding the nuances of how to fly, getting acquainted with the systems, etc.
  • Memory storage: A manual solution will require you to personally manage your data storage through file transfers onto external hard drives, cloud photo storage providers or multiple memory cards.
  • Remote Pilot Certification: You’ll need to study for the Knowledge Test by reviewing the test preparation materials provided by the FAA and then schedule an appointment to take the test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.

Work with a vendor

If you want more value from a drone platform, work with a partner. A software provider can turn an off-the-shelf drone into a platform for gathering imagery and measurements. You can expect the following from a vendor partnership:

  • Quick startup: With automated flight, it’s easy for anyone to inspect roof systems, find damage and obtain accurate, up-to-date roof measurements. Some drone platforms allow a user to create a flight plan so the drone flies itself.
  • No learning curve: Because of the easy nature of flying an automated solution, you can hire a pilot from a large talent pool of FAA-certified pilots to fly and canvass neighborhoods. This makes it easy for you to create more bids and find more business.
  • Access to training: Flying a drone commercially requires a Remote Pilot Certificate. Off-the-shelf drones typically don’t come with training to become certified, but most vendors offer online training to help you obtain your pilot certificate(s).
  • Tailored solution: One of the biggest benefits of working with a vendor is the ability to build a custom solution to fit exactly what you need. Features such as on-site measurements and automated damage detection make it easy to get information and create bids while you are still with a customer.
  • Vendor costs: Any vendor-provided solution will come with an associated cost. An ideal vendor provides enough benefits to outweigh the cost of adoption and may save you money if it also replaces your existing measurement solution.

Learning to fly

Nearly all roofing companies can benefit from drone technology. To adapt in a changing industry, consider adding a drone solution to your sales process. You’ll reach more neighborhoods, produce more bids and close more sales.

Ethan Kirk is director of marketing for Loveland Innovations, Pleasant Grove, Utah.



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