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How to use Thermal Cameras for Drone Roof Inspections



computer screen showing thermal roof inspection

Roofs form the protective cap for all buildings and their exposed nature makes them prone to all kinds of problems - water ingress, structural damage and heat loss are all common challenges for structural engineers, architects and construction companies.


Drone thermal mapping has become a game-changer for roof inspections, providing a fast and fool proof way to detect heat and moisture related issues which could indicate bigger structural problems. Adding thermal imaging to your workflow offers significant advantages to those in construction, architecture and engineering. Here’s why!



Why is thermal mapping important?


thermal image of building

Drone thermal mapping allows you to see what the naked eye can’t see and from a safe distance. Whether you’re conducting a roof inspection during the construction phase or looking for issues later down the line, thermal inspections offer additional intelligence about water ingress, heat loss and moisture issues in minutes.


Equipping drones with thermal cameras eliminates the need for manual roof inspections, mitigating the risks associated with climbing and navigating hazardous areas whilst also enabling works to be scheduled without physically seeing any damage or issues. This technology ensures thorough assessments while prioritizing safety for workers.



What is Thermal Drone Mapping?



thermal image of solar farm
Thermal Image of Solar Farm in Hammer Missins

Thermal mapping uncovers temperature differences which are invisible to the naked eye, providing insights into insulation deficiencies, moisture build-up, water ingress and areas of potential energy loss. In an uninsulated house, a quarter of heat is lost through the roof. Roofs are also vulnerable to weather damage and tiles, slates and other roofing materials are notoriously unstable. Finding the weaknesses in a roof will make a building less susceptible to damage, more climate-friendly and cheaper to run over its lifetime.


Thermal mapping equipment used to be prohibitively expensive but as with most cutting-edge tech, the price has dropped considerably. You’ll often even find thermal cameras in a plumber's toolkit.


This great article from top engineering firm SGH contains more detailed technical information about assessing thermal performance with drones.



What are the use cases for thermal mapping with drones?


thermal inspection of roof
Thermal Inspection Data vs Visual Inspection Data Using Hammer Missions


From construction to maintenance, thermal inspections are useful throughout the entire building lifecycle.


1. Spotting Heat Loss and Insulation Issues


Thermal mapping identifies areas of heat loss and insulation gaps, enabling targeted repairs to be carried out, enhancing energy efficiency and prolonging the roof lifespan.


2. Detecting Moisture and Preventing Damage


By detecting temperature anomalies, thermal mapping identifies leaks, water ingress points, or areas prone to mould growth. Early detection allows for timely repairs, preventing costly damage and structural deterioration.



How do you use thermal mapping data?




Using a thermal drone camera you can collect thermal data in minutes. The data will provide coloured imagery, allowing you to spot issues quickly and easily. Thermal mapping data can be used for the following:


Creating Detailed Roof Maps 

Integrating thermal data into roof maps provides a comprehensive overview of the roof's condition, facilitating targeted repairs and maintenance planning. 


Thermal imaging can also be used during the building process to enable contractors to spot utilities easily and identify areas of weakness in the construction.


Identifying Temperature Variations

Your thermal mapping data can be used to identify hotspots which indicate roof leaks, insulation deficiencies, or structural issues. This enables inspectors to prioritize repairs effectively and ensure optimal roof performance.


Visual Data Comparisons

When carrying out a thermal drone inspection it’s best practice to gather standard imagery at the same time. You can then compare both sets of data to get a better picture of the issues including the scale, position and visible evidence such as slipped roof tiles or weakened masonry which could lead to other serious structural problems.


Watch as we combine visual and thermal data:




What do the deliverables look like for thermal drone inspections?


Once you’ve conducted your thermal roof inspection you’ll have access to data in various formats. Depending on the client brief and inspection workflow you’ve used, you’ll be able to provide detailed information about where the issues lie and the size and nature of the problem. Here are some example outputs you may consider:


Thermal Maps and Comprehensive Reports


Your reports could include orthomosaic TIFF images overlaid with thermal data which will provide detailed insights into roof conditions and show temperature variations in a highly visual way. This type of report can be easily shared with clients and other stakeholders to guide decision-making and inform maintenance strategies.


Orthomosaic .TIFF images are radiometric in nature - they contain temperature data and can be used for assessments of temperature differences and hot spots - perfect for roof inspections.


Thermal Imaging Using a Drone

Quantitative Temperature Measurements


Temperature data collected during thermal drone inspections is highly accurate. Reports showing the precise temperature over an entire roof can facilitate precise analysis and comparison across different areas.



Conclusion


Drone thermal mapping is one of the most powerful tools for roof inspections, offering unparalleled advantages in terms of efficiency, safety, and detailed data collection. By integrating thermal imaging into their workflow, professionals in construction, architecture, and engineering can gain valuable insights into issues such as water ingress, heat loss, and moisture build-up, enabling them to address these concerns quickly and effectively. 


Thermal drone inspections eliminate the need for manual inspections, reducing risks associated with working at height while providing a comprehensive overview of a roof's condition. 


With thermal drone mapping, users can create and share detailed roof maps, identify temperature variations, and compare visual and thermal data for a more thorough analysis.


 

zoom in on a drone thermal inspection

Take Hammer Missions for a Test Flight!


Want to see Hammer Missions in action? Our drone software makes thermal inspection projects easy even for the uninitiated. Our free trial allows you to test out the software, see example projects and get to grips with the data. Get started today!



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