Baltimore General Remodeling Company Now Uses Drones to Survey Rooftops

Roof Line

In recent years, drones have earned plenty of bad press for their role in military missions and Amazon’s planned delivery services. In late January, one man even accidentally crashed his recreational drone on the front yard of the White House, drawing scrutiny from the national media and the Secret Service. However, a general remodeling company from Baltimore has found a way to use these maligned gadgets for good: the contractor now uses drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to survey rooftops.

Surveying rooftops usually requires a contractor or construction worker to climb to the roof, using a ladder truck, to inspect the area in person. Obviously, this is not only costly, but also dangerous: while security gear can be used to prevent slips and falls, some incidents can cause serious physical harm. Allied Remodeling of Central Maryland, Inc. has successfully killed two birds with one stone: the company expects to save between $70,000 and $8,000 a year by replacing their six ladder trucks with six drones, and their employees can survey rooftops while staying safely on the ground.

Allied has been in business since 1996 and currently employs 22 people. Every year, the company usually completes around $4.5 million in residential remodeling work around Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Previously, this meant extensive use of their ladder trucks, which cost $1,300 a month to run. By spending $7,000 to purchase six UAVs, Allied no longer needs to insure these trucks or spend money on gas. Additionally, by keeping workers off roofs, the company is reducing their liability and injury risk, which can mean lower insurance rates.

Moreover, by using the drones, Allied says they are providing their clients with better service: six employees have currently been trained to fly the UAVs over a house, bringing back high-definition video of the roof and giving homeowners a clear view of any problems or even the finished product. The company says that this has helped their business stand out: in the two months since they began using the drones, they say that they have been referred to clients’ neighbors and friends who are interested in this unusual service.

However, there does seem to be some question of whether or not Allied’s use of the UAVs is legal: the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ruled that all businesses must receive permission to use drones. Meanwhile, recreational drones do not require FAA approval, but must follow a number of stipulations regarding how high they can fly, how close they can come to airports and military bases, and more. A number of companies are reportedly confused by this situation, especially because no law presently gives FAA authority over drone usage. Formal rules are currently in the works. But until the terms of use are clearer, organizations like the National Roofing Contractors Association are keeping their distance from this technology.

For their part, Allied says its drones are considered recreational because the company uses them on private property and does not fly them any higher than 25 feet off the ground. Because of this, the company isn’t afraid to have a little fun with their new gadgets: they often let homeowners test out the machines themselves, especially since the drones use GPS signals, which make them difficult to crash. And at the end of each appointment, Allied hands out pins with pilot’s wings, a helpful reminder of what their tools can accomplish despite the controversy that surrounds them.

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