ADVICE on Roof surveying

Dear fellow Drone enthusiasts,

I have recently started my own roofing company and I'm looking to purchase an RC Camera Drone to carry out roofing surveys and assessments.  I want really high quality images but I don't want to spend the earth!

Can anyone advise me on what they think would be the best package to purchase?

I would need to access buildings of up to 20m maybe control through a monitor where the drone would have to fly out of visual sight.  I would want a really robust (if possible) drone with a high (as possible) quality camera and a control with a screen to see where im flying.

My apologies if there has already been a thread posted on this topic but I did try a brief search to no avail. 

Thank you in advance!

P.S. I'm looking spend no more than 350GBP all in but if that's totally unrealistic then so be it..

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  • Hey George,

    From app stand point and to hit your budget with new Kit:

    Quad/Drone approx. 190-200GBP

    Hobby King Nova/Cheerson CX-20 (get mode 2 RTF model)

    Ex. HK Link

    Camera approx. 50 GBP

    GoPro copy or older second-hand GoPro (still Hi-Res)

    Ex. Hobby King Turnigy HD ActionCam 1080P Full HD Video Camera w/Waterproof Case

    FPV kit approx. 90-100 GBP

    Ex. FatShark (FS) Teleporter V3 RTF FPV Headset System w/Camera and 5.8G TX

    Additional:
    Main batteries for Nova approx 3-5 GBP

    Ex. x3 Turnigy 2700mAh 3S 20C Lipo Pack or  Turnigy 2200mAh 3S 20C Lipo Pack

    Battery for on-board FS kit transmitter so save on flight time approx. 2-3 GBP

    Ex.  Turnigy 500mAh 3S 20C Lipo Pack also fits inside the Nova with the standard battery

    Buy spare propellers approx. x4 2-3 GBP

    Buy spare landing skids approx. 5 GBP

    Also consider using propeller guards when onsite approx. 5 GBP

    NB: To avoid cost/weight of a gimbal (60 GBP) you can use the standard vibration dampened camera mount that comes with the Nova and fits the GoPro/copy.

    Good luck mate!

    Cheers,

    James

    FlightBots.com

  • Depending on the size of the building, the ability to hold position above the place would allow a gimbal mounted camera to move about and take enough photos to cover the entire roof. There may need to be some movement if the building is larger, has a more complex roof, etc.

  • You can't fly commercially in the UK without a BNUC-S piloting licence which costs something like £1400, plus insurance, plus special permission to fly nearer than 150m to any neighboring buildings.  A decent gopro capable drone is roughly £500-800 depending on how much you can build yourself.

    A DJI Phantom is the typical starter ready-to-fly package but you'll need lots of practice in the open before you go anywhere near a building or people.

  • I've been researching this topic for a roofing magazine article in the US.

    First, you need a GoPro camera ($300) that is capable of shooting 4k video.  From the video you use software ($80) to export high resolution stills.  But you will need to replace the wide angle GoPro lens (170 degrees) with a more standard lens (90 degrees, $125) to get up close views of roofing features/flaws.  Although you can change the angle of view in the GoPro menus to a narrow field of view, it crops the sensor and reduces the quality of the image.

    Second, you need an MR that has a camera switching function for flying.  You fly with the wide angle FPV camera to avoid limbs and wires.  Flying with your video camera focused down on the roof makes it more probable that you'll back into an obstacle.  

    Third, a flight controller that offers a 'Position Hold' mode will enable you to get into position, and then switch to your video camera to concentrate on the photo.  Alternatively, you could use a two operator setup where the pilot flies, and a second controller operates the camera.

    Finally, a radio setup that is resistant to signal loss when you fly out of sight over the edge of a roof will keep you from losing control.  If your work is primarily one story buildings, you can probably keep 'Line Of Sight'.  If you're flying over tall buildings, an EzUHF will give better coverage.  Another way of dealing with loss of signal would be to use 'Auto' mode on a Pixhawk.  Program the flight plan using GPS for positioning, 'Point Of Interest' to control which way the MR is pointing, and you control the camera tilt.

    • Lots of bad advice here.  Your budget is unrealistic unless you want to build a multirotor yourself.

      You don't need a gopro or some goofy camera.  Taking stills with a video camera is a good way to burn a lot of money for crappy output.

      You don't need FPV gear, you're going to be watching the dang thing the whole time.  All you need is a mid-sized multirotor and a $75-100 Canon camera.

      I suggest getting a son/daughter/niece/nephew to do the flying and you can avoid the commercial issue and get a better pilot in the process.

    • This is a good answer. I think using a Hero 4 and shooting 4K and so that you can export stills is a sensible approach. Use a small quad - 450 size. The risk factor is so much lower.

      Loiter mode is very practical if you use Arducopter. I would be very cautious about using guided full auto missions around buildings. They usually have trees around them as well and sometimes it is hard to get a good low hdop GPS lock before you take off. There is quite a steep learning curve in doing this. It is not all that hard but you really need to be good enough to gain control in manual mode in windy conditions -- so many people are not and hit problems. I have done a bit of this and I would never fly out of LOS.

      If you use Arducopter -- and I personally would -- make sure you use telemetry and have a Droidplanner or a Laptop with volume turned up. This gives you a heads-up if failsafes are hit. I would never do this without telemetry audible.

      If you take the arducopter route My #1 tip is to build yourself a push button Flight Mode Switch (there are instructions on this on this site). Toggle switches never really cut in emergencies. I also think a Taranis radio Controller is the way to go.

      I am plan to be experimenting with doing thermal roof inspections. None of this is really legal so it really pays to keep the weight down to under well under 2KG and do lots of practice and be very, very cautious, and have checklists. Train yourself to fly in manual mode around building in windy conditions -- it is not all that easy.

      Good luck

    • Wow! Amazing response, that's really helpful thank you.

      • Developer
        If you use EzUHF you will need a license to use that frequency of 433Mhz. If you get a Amatuer Radio license, you'll be restricted to non-commercial use only.
  • The DJI Phantom 2 could be what you are looking for, although it may end up costing slightly over your budget.

    DJI has some example pictures of what the footage coming out of the Phantom would look like here: http://www.dji.com/product/phantom-2-vision-plus/actual-footage

    • I second a Phantom for an easy to use system that is (despite what Andre says) quite reliable.

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