Drones are increasingly popular among both hobbyists and professionals. They provide a high-tech surveying solution that gives important data to their controllers and they also have an undeniable cool factor. Even farmers are turning to drones to survey crop damage after storms without having to survey their fields on foot.

Some contractors have started using drones as well. Depending on the contractor’s needs, a drone can either be a valuable tool to help with job estimates or an easy way to inspect job sites after work is completed. If you’ve never thought about using drones but find yourself intrigued, here are a few things to consider.

Job Estimates

The first possibility for using drones as a contractor is to assist with your job estimates. Putting a drone in the air gives you a top-down view of the roof or similar structures, letting you see potential damage or things you’ll need to work around without having to leave the ground. You can also use drones to identify specific places that require a more in-depth inspection, making the estimate process more efficient overall.

You’ll still need to head up a ladder for specific measurements, to get a hands-on look at some parts of the job and to check the integrity of questionable parts of the job. Sending up a drone first can give you a good idea of just where you need to focus your attention, though.

Work Inspections

Another big use of drones on the job is to inspect the job site once your workers and subcontractors have finished. This is especially important if you’ve hired roofing contractors or others that you’ve never worked with before; since you don’t have personal experience with them, it’s good to be able to check their work quickly and zoom in on areas of special focus to make sure that everything meets your standards.

As with using drones for estimates, sending up a drone to check work doesn’t mean that you’ll never have to set foot on a roof again. Instead, it helps you to find the potential problem areas so that you can head straight to them instead of walking over every inch of the job without knowing what to look for.

Choosing a Drone

Not all drones are created equal. If you’re buying a drone to use on the job, you’ll likely want to stay away from the low-end options that are made of cheap materials or that only take still pictures or recorded clips of video. Instead, you’ll want a drone that is sturdy enough to hold together if the wind starts blowing and that streams video to a computer on the ground so you can see what things look like in real time.

This real-time video access is really important on the job since it not only makes sure that you don’t miss anything but also lets you focus on potential problems as you see them. Without real-time video, you would have to send the drone up, review the video once it comes back down and then send it up again if there were any spots you wanted a closer look at. Of course, that assumes that you’ll be able to find those trouble spots again.

Other Considerations

While drones have obvious benefits, they’re not for everyone or for every job. You can’t just pull one out of the box and expect it to be an amazing tool right off the bat; you need to spend time practicing how to control it. If you plan on controlling it while watching the video feed, you’ll also have to learn to split your attention between the two tasks. Taking off and landing can be especially tricky, so you’ll need to find the time to practice these basics well before you have to do it on the job site.

Drones are less useful on some types of jobs, since they're often limited to set camera positions. If you commonly survey areas where there are overhangs or other obstructions that you’ll need to see under, then some face time will be required as well. The weather can also affect drone use, since high winds at the job site make them difficult to control.

If you want to use drones on the job, it’s also important to keep up with proceedings of the government. Both the FAA and the Department of Transportation are involved in regulating drone usage and various registration requirements may be required before you can get your drone in the air as part of your business.

Local regulations may restrict or regulate drone use on the job, as well.