top of page
  • Writer's pictureHammer Missions

Building Inspections with Drones | Common Structural & Non-Structural Issues

Updated: Mar 29

In the field of building inspection and maintenance, technological advancements are constantly transforming traditional practices. One notable adoption is the use of drones for assessing the structural integrity of buildings. Drones provide an aerial view of structures, enabling inspectors to efficiently and accurately identify common external structural issues.


This article aims to explore how drones are revolutionizing the inspection process and the main external structural issues they can detect.


1. Roof Damage


Roof damage is one of the most prevalent external structural issues buildings face, often caused by the weather, debris accumulation, or poor maintenance. Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras can capture detailed images of the roof surface, providing inspectors with a comprehensive view of its condition. From missing or damaged shingles to cracks in the flashing, drones can detect signs of wear and tear that may lead to leaks or structural deterioration.


drone image of a damaged roof

2. Cracks and Settlement


Cracks in exterior walls or foundations can indicate underlying structural issues such as settlement, soil movement, or foundation failure. Traditional methods of inspecting these areas often involve manual visual assessment or using scaffolding, which can be time-consuming and costly. With drones, inspectors can safely and efficiently navigate around buildings, capturing aerial footage that reveals cracks, gaps, or uneven settling without the need for physical access.


When looking for cracks using drones, one important thing to consider is the GSD of your dataset. GSD of your drone dataset controls how big or small cracks show up in the data, so it's important to get this right!

cracks in a building


3. Facade Damage


The facade of a building not only contributes to its aesthetic appeal but also serves as a protective barrier against environmental elements. Damage to the facade, such as cracks, spalling, or dislodged cladding, can compromise both the structural integrity and visual appeal of a building. Drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras can detect hidden moisture infiltration or insulation deficiencies, while high-definition cameras can capture detailed images of facade defects from various angles.




drone building inspection data showing damage


4. Structural Deformation


External structural deformation, such as leaning or bowing walls, can indicate serious structural issues that require immediate attention. Drones equipped with a simple camera can generate 3D models of buildings, allowing inspectors to analyze the geometry and alignment of structural elements with precision. By comparing these models to architectural plans or previous scans, inspectors can identify deviations or deformations that may signal structural instability.


1 Seaport leaning tower New York City
Image Credit: YouTube/ urbanistexploringcities



5. Vegetation Encroachment


Overgrown vegetation around buildings can pose several risks, including moisture retention, pest infestation, and physical damage to structural elements. Drone photogrammetry allows inspectors to identify areas where trimming or removal may be necessary. By addressing vegetation encroachment proactively, property owners can mitigate potential damage and preserve the longevity of their buildings.



6. Environmental Hazards


External structural issues can also be exacerbated by environmental hazards such as flooding, erosion, or seismic activity. Drones equipped with environmental sensors can assess site conditions and identify areas prone to these hazards, allowing property owners to implement preventative measures or structural reinforcements as needed. By monitoring environmental factors over time, inspectors can track changes in risk levels and recommend appropriate mitigation strategies.


7. Severity Levels for Inspections


Most of the time structural flaws and issues may not be that severe and the condition is safe to be monitored. However, when things are bad it pays to know exactly how bad! Normal photographs and videos often don’t highlight specific areas in enough detail to make informed decisions but using a drone it’s possible to get up close and personal with any areas of concern - and fast! Drones also allow for inspections to be repeated quickly so if images and data show there’s a problem, repeat inspections can be scheduled to understand how quickly is the issue evolving.


building inspection data


Conclusion


The integration of drones into building inspection processes has revolutionized the way external structural issues are identified and addressed. With their ability to capture high-resolution imagery, generate 3D models, and analyze environmental data, drones empower inspectors to conduct thorough assessments quickly and efficiently. By leveraging drone technology, property owners, managers and engineering firms can proactively identify and mitigate common external structural issues, ultimately enhancing the safety, longevity, and value of their buildings.


Questions About Drone Programs?


Are you considering using drones on your next project? Our Knowledge Hub is packed full of guides and example workflows to help you capture and analyse drone data quickly and easily. 


Want to know more about drone data and how it can be used in your business?


Ready to get started? Download Hammer Missions for a free 14 day trial (no credit card required) or speak to one of our specialists to get the best advice for your specific project.






Commentaires


For more articles, subscribe to our monthly newsletter!

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page