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Drones for Inspection Case Study: Geoff Neal Roofing

Last updated on

January 22, 2021


    Drones for Inspection Case Study

    When we think of drones, we tend to visualise images taken while soaring over rolling fields and hills. But an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) designed for the task of working indoors or inside assets can locate flaws in tiny interior spaces using drone-mounted cameras and sensors. Allow us to talk you through our latest drones for inspection case study…

    Drones are particularly well-suited to “3D’s work” – dirty, dangerous and difficult. Internal inspections often are all three. Also, scaffolding, cranes or rope access are no longer needed. Inspection teams are kept safely outside, typically comprising a pilot and a surveyor.

    At Coptrz we love hearing success stories from people who have come through our Academy and are now utilising the full potential of drone technology. If you want to find out more about drones for inspection and how we can help you, you can download our free eBook here. Drones for Inspection Guide

    Using Drones for Inspection Case Study: Geoff Neal Roofing 

    In our latest interview, we spoke to Colin Whyte, project coordinator at Geoff Neal Roofing, to see how the introduction of technology has revolutionised their roof inspections.

    Geoff Neal Roofing (GNR) of York specialise in residential, commercial, heritage, and ecclesiastical roofing projects.

    For almost 40 years, they have gained extensive experience in re-roofing traditional and modern buildings of varying ages and types throughout York and North Yorkshire using an array of materials.

    Roofing projects are a major undertaking, GNR strive to make the process as smooth as possible for customers by offering ancillary services linked to roofing such as specialist leadwork, timberwork, insulation, chimney repairs, stonework, guttering, roof lights, and dormer windows.

    What is your role at Geoff Neal roofing?

    “I’ve been with Geoff Neal Roofing now for just over a year. Prior to that I did 13 years with a builders’ merchant. Before that, I did seven and a half years in the in the army as an aircraft technician.

    “Mainly, my role here is responsible for the commercial and large-scale tenders. So that is from initial survey quotation, then if we are awarded the work, project management and client liaison. As a company we specialise in residential commercial heritage including ecclesiastical roofing. We use both modern techniques as well as traditional techniques and materials.”

    How often do you carry out roof inspections?

    “From the survey we take data of still images and measurements covering the areas of work required, we also converse with the client on any issues that they are aware of and any requirements and expectations they have regarding works to be carried out. As a roofing company this is predominately of roof areas but also can include the building fabric and internal areas. We try to carry out an in-person survey for each one dependant on the access available and location, but these are a weekly occurrence. With the data collected and information gathered we can produce an accurate quotation, and also any turnkey solutions that can address any issues or problems encountered, for the client with all information and guidance we can provide.

    “We also can carry out roof surveys and reports for clients predominantly property management companies and landlords.

    Shot captured by GNR on the DJI Mavic Air 2

    “For large scale projects we use the drone to capture completed works with still and video images which we can present to the client, and also use for our own business promotional purposes.”

    What was the traditional method of collecting data before using drones?

    “Traditionally images were gathered from ground level as much as physically can be seen from the ground, or via ladders to roof areas. This involves an inherent risk due to the height aspect and minimal fall protection, which can cause issues getting enough accurate data and also gaining sufficient images to analyse. With this method you’re only going to get minimal data from any kind of image, so it’s then down to Google Earth. Drones have definitely made it a lot easier and safer.

    “We have just done a survey on Kiplin Hall. Ironically, we could get on the roof because it had an internal pitched area but were unable to see the external pitched area. We then did the ground survey on it and they knew they had leaks, so the drone helped to see the areas clearly to pick out exactly what was causing those leaks. It definitely helps in the fact that you can put those images forward to the client, as well as highlight or annotate where specific areas are.”

    How did the idea of deploying drones come about?

    I’ve never actually flown a drone before. When I first started, we were looking at what we could do to move the company forward. We have a side business called Hot Box Stoves and Michael who runs it is actually a commercial drone pilot, so we have utilised him in the past.

    “Using drones had been an idea that was floating around for a while, but we found it wasn’t overly cost effective. So, we decided to give it a go ourselves and it was my job to research the use of drones for surveying. I tried to find as much information as possible, but as it is a relatively new industry there isn’t that much out there other than people who are already doing it and want you to use them as a service.

    “I then stumbled across one of Jamie Cording’s ‘Start A Drone Business’ webinars and signed up to watch it. I got all of the information from that webinar and that is where it all started.  I then signed up to take my PfCO and all of the other required training with Coptrz.”

    Were people sceptical about introducing the drone technology into your operations?

    “I think people were sceptical at first, but it was received in a positive manner. With everyone thinking it can only help and enhance our business. With the potential to provide further services from our business model. It has also meant we are all looking to how we can progress the business offering and further enhance drone operations within the business.”

    What drones do you have in your fleet at Geoff Neal Roofing?

    “We currently have a DJI Mavic Air 2 which we procured this year, it is certainly a fully capable drone, and for our work that we currently do it is perfect, being small and man-portable, but with excellent image quality that we can analyse fully.”

    Have drones improved safety, speed, costs, time, and quality challenges?

    The main benefit is definitely the safety of our staff, from being able to carry out a full roof survey from ground level and not having to access any high-level areas via ladders. It also allows us to be more accurate with our quotations as we have high-quality images we can analyse and identify potential issues that may not be noticed via traditional surveying.

    “It also allows us to provide a product we can sell to clients. With minimal costs, the initial outlay of equipment and training can be recovered in a short period and then allows a profitable product for the business in the long term.

    “Currently, the drone we use is sufficient to our business needs, but we have also discussed if in the long term we may need to obtain more substantial equipment, for example with thermal or mapping functionality to provide further survey options if required.”

    Shot captured by GNR on the DJI Mavic Air 2

    What plans do you have for future drone applications?

    “Because it is such a new application to the business, we are going to see how it goes. We have had quite a lot of attraction from it already and we have discussed the potential drone work that is out there for us.

    “We definitely would like to gain further experience with the current level of survey and reporting we can provide with our current equipment. In the long term we plan to further our capabilities to more advanced surveying with options like thermal and mapping functionalities, but also look to broaden the drone services to not be survey-based but also into videography or promotional works if the requirement is available to us.”

    Finally, do you have any tips for people thinking about training to become a drone pilot?

    “I was lucky that I come from a previous life working within aviation, that meant a lot of the terminology and material required to learn and understand I have seen before, which helped with the learning material and the operations manual, but I would say to anyone that it isn’t too difficult and once into the training it starts to sink in quickly. I think that it is a growing industry and that whatever industry you work in there is potential for drones to enhance or grow your business, and worth being open-minded to how it could help you or your business, e.g., for us one of the main driving forces was the health and safety aspect first but this has led to growing our business and furthering our services available.

    “I would recommend anyone thinking to research as much as possible what the drone industry can offer and use companies like Coptrz who are open with webinars but also the information they can provide. The eLearning which due to this year’s pandemic was the only option for the course, but in my view was a much better way to learn as had the option do it at my own pace and also could go back to sections if unsure on anything.

    “It does not need to be a heavy cost investment with very capable drones that aren’t very expensive, with short term investment can enhance and grow a business or also an individual’s skill set that can only help in the future.

    “Finally, Practice Practice Practice! Try and find a landowner with space to allow you to practice flying the drone, I found it quite daunting at first but once you start practising it certainly gets more comfortable and gain confidence.”

    You can check out the Geoff Neal Roofing YouTube here.

    Is your business the next big thing?

    If you are wanting to get involved with the revolution of drone technology, what are you waiting for? There is no better time than right now to start your journey. Contact us today and our team of experts will get you on your way to drone success.

    Who knows, you could be featuring on this very blog in our next drones for inspection case study.


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