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How Drones Can Help with Your Roof Inspection for Homeowners Insurance

Originally intended chiefly for military operations, drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are increasingly being used for commercial, scientific, recreational, agricultural and other purposes. When it comes to usage in real estate and for home inspection, the ability of drones to capture spectacular aerial views through cameras attached to the device is what separates them from any other technology.

VHomeInsurance.com researched on available data to examine details of drone usage for home inspection, its pros and cons, the best-known drones for home inspection, and other information. Data from InterNachi’s legal team revealed that in 2016 in the United States about 600,000 drones were used commercially, and the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) expect this figure to increase to about 2.7 million. According to Forbes about 72% of Americans believe in investing on home inspection, and a majority of these home inspectors prefer using cameras fitted to drones to be able to conduct a thorough home inspection.

A home inspection is a visual inspection of a home, carried out by qualified professionals, that assesses which parts of your home needs repair. Home insurance companies often need a 4-point home inspection before selling insurance to a new customer. For old houses more than 25 years old, this inspection is especially mandatory. Insurers need to inspect whether the plumbing system is in working condition, or the roof is too old to be considered stable. Based on an inspection of the roof, electrical wiring, plumbing system and HVAC - they usually write a policy for a specific buyer.

Selecting the Right Drone for Inspecting Your Roof for Homeowners Insurance

The following infographic highlights the best drones used for home inspection in the current market, and the qualities that mark their superiority to other products.

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According to ASHI, the magazine for home inspectors in America, drone buyers need to prioritize on features such as - flight control, first person view (FPV), GPS, camera, flight time and range.

Pros & Cons of Using Drones for Roof Inspection for Home Insurance

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Roof inspection has been made a lot easier and more efficient with the introduction of drones. With those roofs particularly that are made of slate or other materials that are liable to break under pressure of walking on them, home inspectors had to rely on views from binoculars, by going into the attic or by climbing on ladders to the eaves – to conduct a proper inspection of the roof. Not to mention of course the hazards involved in climbing on to the roofs of even those houses that are easier to climb on.

With drone technology the option is now there to be able to view the roof from up close, without going through a lot of trouble. A drone is a light instrument that is much easier to carry than a big extension ladder. So a drone-based roof inspection can allow the home inspector to examine minute details such as lifting shingles or bent flashing. Also drones can access difficult to reach and tight spaces, and thus capture more information than would have been possible through conventional methods. A roof being an expensive component of a house may require a homeowner to pay thousands of dollars in repairs, if such details are overlooked.

Apart from capturing better views without needing manual labor, drones also enable easier analysis of the gathered data and generate reports faster, with the help of its state of the art software. Additionally, because drone services negate the need for investing on scaffolding, lifts, ladders and other equipment, it saves time as well as cost.

Finally, because of the risks associated with traditional roof inspections, usually the workers, equipment and structures are insured against damages. With the introduction of drones, expenditure on insurance can also be avoided.

However, one of the big disadvantages of using a drone for home inspection could be the cost of replacement of the drone (at least $1000) if one crashes it. That is why if you’re a home inspector you should have enough practice of flying drones before testing them out in the field. Also you should talk to your insurer from beforehand to make sure that you are covered for your drone in case of some damage to it. Finally, never think of flying drones during extreme weather conditions such as during rain, snow or high winds.

Another risk involved in using drones for home inspection is its shorter lifespan because of which drone batteries require periodic recharge. Also, because it is a small device it is liable to be harmed by wild animals, or suffer damages due to atrocities.

FAA Guidelines for Drones and Home Inspections for Insurance

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Since drones carry potential for causing damage to people and property, the FAA came out with a document known as “Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations” in 2016, to list a few rules for drone users. Drone users need to follow all these regulations stringently, as violating them can invite fines of up to $27,500 and/or criminal penalties.

These regulations are listed into the following categories:

Operating Requirements

  • Control: The controller must never lose sight of the aircraft. Also, more than one aircraft should never be manned at the same time.
  • Maximum Height and Speed: The maximum allowable altitude is 400 feet above the ground, and higher if the drone remains within 400 feet of a structure. The maximum speed is 100 mph (87 knots).
  • Moving vehicles: No operations from a moving vehicle are allowed unless the drone is being flown over a sparsely populated area.
  • Route: You can’t fly a small UAS over anyone who is not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, or not inside a covered stationary vehicle.
  • Time: You cannot fly at night. You can fly during daylight or in twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
  • Extra Load: Do not carry an external load unless it is securely attached and does not adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft.
  • Exceptions: You can request a waiver of most of the operational restrictions if you can show that your proposed operation can be conducted safely under a waiver.

Pilot certification:

To operate the controls of a small UAS under Part 107, you need a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating, or be under the direct supervision of a person who holds such a certificate. Also, you need to buy a drone that is registered.

Respecting privacy:

The 2016 document states that the agency will provide all drone users with recommended privacy guidelines as part of the UAS registration process and through the FAA’s B4UFly mobile app. The FAA also will educate all commercial drone pilots on privacy during their pilot certification process, and will issue new guidance to local and state governments on drone privacy issues.