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  • Writer's pictureJay H

Most Common Types of Commercial Roofs Assessed by Drones

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Many types of commercial roofing materials and systems can be accurately assessed by infrared-equipped drones, but some materials are more difficult to scan from a drone than others.

Drone over commercial roof.
Drone over commercial roof.

Here are the different materials commonly assessed by drones and the challenges that arise with aerial moisture assessments.


Built-up roofing (BUR):


Also known as tar and gravel roofing, BUR is made up of multiple layers of asphalt and felt. It is one of the oldest and most traditional types of commercial roofing and is known for its durability and resistance to weather and fire.


Built-up roof with rock.
Built-up roof with rock.


The Challenge With Detecting Roof Leaks Using Drones on Built-up roofing (BUR)


One challenge is that BUR roofs typically have multiple layers, making it difficult for drones to accurately detect moisture in the underlying layers. The moisture may be trapped in the insulation or lower layers of the roof, and the drone may not be able to detect it from the surface.


Another challenge is that BUR roofs can be uneven and have gravel or other debris on the surface, interfering with the drone's ability to get a clear image of the roof. The drone may need to fly at a lower altitude or use specialized cameras or sensors to get a more accurate reading.


Modified Bitumen Roofing


Similar to BUR, modified bitumen roofing is made of asphalt and felt, but with added polymer modifiers that provide additional strength and flexibility. It can be installed using various methods, including heat welding, cold adhesive, or self-adhesive.

Modified Bitumen roof.
Modified Bitumen roof.

The Challenge With Detecting Roof Leaks Using Drones on Modified Bitumen Roofing


Firstly, MBR roofs can have different installation methods, such as heat welding, cold adhesive, or self-adhesive, which can result in varying surface textures and reflectivity. These surface variations can make it challenging for the drone to maintain a consistent altitude and obtain accurate moisture data.


Secondly, the reflective surface of MBR roofs can create hotspots and reflections that can interfere with the drone's sensors and make it difficult to obtain a clear image. Specialized cameras and sensors may be required to mitigate this issue and ensure accurate readings.


Thirdly, MBR roofs can have a range of membrane thicknesses, and the drone's sensors may not be able to penetrate the membrane's thickness to detect moisture accurately. This may require specialized equipment and trained professionals to perform the inspection and analysis.


Thermoplastic Roofing (TPO and PVC)


TPO and PVC roofs are single-ply roofing systems that offer excellent durability and energy efficiency. They are lightweight, easy to install, and highly resistant to UV rays, chemicals, and punctures.


Thermoplastic Roofing (TPO and PVC)
Thermoplastic Roofing (TPO and PVC).

The Challenge With Detecting Roof Leaks Using Drones on Thermoplastic Roofing (TPO and PVC):


One challenge is that TPO and PVC roofs can have a highly reflective surface, which can result in hotspots and reflections that can interfere with the drone's sensors and data collection. To mitigate this issue, specialized sensors and cameras may be required to capture accurate readings.


Another challenge is that TPO and PVC roofs are often white or light-colored, which can make it difficult for the drone to identify wet spots and water damage. This may require a closer inspection or the use of specialized sensors to detect subtle changes in temperature or moisture levels.


Metal Roofing


Metal roofing is popular for commercial buildings due to its durability, longevity, and low maintenance requirements. It is available in a variety of materials, including aluminum, steel, and copper.


Metal commercial roof.
Metal commercial roof.

The Challenge With Detecting Roof Leaks Using Drones on Metal Roofing:


Firstly, the metal surface of the roof can reflect sunlight, which can cause glare and hot spots that can interfere with the drone's sensors and make it difficult to obtain accurate moisture data. Specialized cameras and sensors may be required to mitigate this issue and ensure accurate readings.


Secondly, metal roofs can have different coatings or finishes, resulting in varying surface textures and reflectivity. These surface variations can make it challenging for the drone to maintain a consistent altitude and obtain accurate moisture data.


Finally, metal roofs can be challenging to navigate due to their shape and steep angles, which can make it difficult for the drone to obtain accurate readings from all areas of the roof surface. This may require the use of multiple flights or specialized equipment to ensure a thorough inspection.


Spray Polyurethane Foam Roofing (SPF)


SPF roofing is a seamless, lightweight system that is applied as a liquid foam and then sprayed with a protective coating. It is highly energy-efficient and can be applied to any roof surface, making it an attractive option for retrofitting buildings.


Spray Polyurethane Foam Roofing (SPF)
Spray Polyurethane Foam Roofing (SPF)

The Challenge With Detecting Roof Leaks Using Drones on Spray Polyurethane Foam Roofing (SPF):


SPF roofing can have a textured surface, making it difficult for the drone to maintain a consistent altitude and obtain accurate moisture data. The textured surface can also affect the drone's sensors and make it difficult to obtain accurate readings.


Secondly, SPF roofing is a seamless roofing system, which can make it difficult to locate the exact source of any detected moisture. Moisture may have entered the roofing system at one point and traveled to another area, making pinpointing the source challenging.


The foam may absorb water but not show any visible signs of damage, making it difficult to identify areas of concern.


Conclusion


Choosing the right method to assess the condition of your commercial roof for your building will depend on various factors, including budget, location, and building use. Consult with Jeeves Drones to learn how our drones can assess commercial roofs today.

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