Emerging technologies never cease to amaze me. My first job in this business was selling equipment to roofing contractors. Loved it. I got to spend my days telling roofing contractors about the latest innovations in mechanized roofing.

Two emerging technologies that have captivated me lately are 3-D printers and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones).

So, what do 3-D printers have to do with roofing? Nothing yet, but I can see a roofer texting a few photos of a complex flashing detail back to the shop and, instead of having it fabricated with metal, having it printed with the same polymer membrane that covers the rest of the roof. Or maybe there is no shop; you just print it out in the back of your service truck. Why not?

Truth is, 3-D printing for flashing compared to the use of UAVs in roofing is like comparing personal jet packs to driverless automobiles for transportation. There are serious plans being made now to make driverless automobiles a reality in the next 10 to 20 years.

Exploring the use of UAVs in roofing has been going on for a long time. UAV hardware is increasingly more sophisticated and affordable. The software used to measure roofs from the sky that presently exists is amazing, but it will provide an even greater array of value once UAVs are approved for use in roofing, construction and property evaluation.

We noted in April 2013 that Congress set a mandate for the FAA to establish rules to open up the skies for UAVs by the fall of 2015. The process is moving forward, but the deadline will not likely be met by the FAA, which has, so far, only issued a handful of exemptions allowing the commercial use of UAVs.

There are a lot of moving parts regarding the development of rules for the use of UAVs in public airspace. Key items of concern include safety, operator training, testing, licensing and privacy.

As this process moves forward, it is going to take a coalition of coalitions from government, education, public safety and business to institutionalize the safe use of UAVs. As with any initiative this comprehensive, it will require each group to play well with the others.

I was delighted to learn about the recent formation of the Property Drone Consortium (PDC), which is being chaired by EagleView Technologies CEO Chris Barrow. As there will be many individual companies and interests competing for approval to operate UAVs, it became obvious to Barrow that it would be much more effective if interests in roofing, construction and property insurance were able to approach the challenges with a unified voice.

I agree and encourage others in roofing to join with the work of the PDC. Roofing Contractor will report on the activities of the PDC in more detail soon, and updates will continue as they develop. 

If you are interested in learning more about the use of UAVs in roofing and the ongoing activities of the Property Drone Consortium, check out these informational links:

Property Drone Consortium Website

April 2013 Editor’s Note

Drone Roofing YouTube Videos