Drones, Licensing, and Knowing Your Airspace

Author: Jon Stivers

Jon is an Internachi certified home inspector, and the owner of Top Inspections LLC, in Philadelphia, Pa. He holds a part 107 commercial drone license and flies a DJI Mavic Air 2. The company website is https://topinspectionsllc.com


It is becoming much more common for drones to be used for roof and exterior inspections. Drone images can provide a great overall picture of the roof. With a skilled pilot, it is also possible to get in close for detail shots. Drones are especially helpful if the roof is inaccessible due to height, steepness, roof covering material, or poor condition. Some inspectors use a drone for all roof inspections that do not have safe, permanent access. Drone inspections save time and reduce liability. While drone roof inspections cannot completely replace walking the roof when it is safe and appropriate, they are an important tool for an inspector to consider.

The photo below shows a drone photo of a roof and exterior (See Figure 1: Obliquangle drone photograph). The overhead point of view allows the inspector to evaluate many aspects of the roof and exterior in one shot, and get an impression of the overall condition of the outside of the building. For example, in this photo the metal gutters and flashing look worn and corroded, and show evidence of piecemeal repairs. Several slate shingles have been replaced. The bay roof peaks have received a last resort repair using roofing cement. The stone walls show evidence of chronic water management problems. By contrast, the bay windows and scalloped siding appear to be in very good condition.

Figure 1: Oblique angle drone photograph.

The photo allows the inspector to conclude that the house roof and exterior has received some localized patching and repairs of various quality, but overall needs to be thoroughly renovated.

There are lots of drones on the market that home inspectors can choose from. Prosumer models feature cameras with resolutions comparable to a high-quality phone. Higher end models have larger photo sensors, zoom lenses, and can include infrared capability. There is plenty of information available for selecting a drone and learning to fly. Beyond that, it is important to fly legally and safely while doing inspections. The purpose of this article is to provide a simple introduction to legal and safe commercial drone operation.

Getting Your Pilot Certificate

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires commercial operators to fly by the rules of Part 107 for small unmanned aircraft systems. To summarize the rules as they apply to home inspection, a Part 107 drone “license” is required if compensation is received for use of the drone images. This includes images in a paid inspection report. For perspective on this federal law, note that posting drone footage on YouTube to promote a business is also considered commercial use. Suffice it to say that home inspectors will need a Part 107 Pilot’s Certificate.

The first step to getting a Part 107 certificate is to create a personal profile with the FAA. This can be done at https://iacra.faa.gov/IACRA/. The FAA calls this profile the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application. The purpose of the profile is to create a digital folder to contain any pilot ratings and aircraft registrations associated with the drone pilot. The FAA will run a background check as part of creating the profile. It is important to note that when the application is approved a unique FAA Tracking Number (FTN) will be assigned to the personal profile. This number will follow the pilot throughout his career. Be sure to write down this number. It will be needed when registering for the exam.

After getting signed up with the FAA, it is time to study for the Part 107 exam. As per the FAA, the exam topics include:

  • Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
  • Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation.
  • Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
  • Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
  • Emergency procedures
  • Crew resource management
  • Radio communication procedures
  • Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft
  • Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
  • Airport operations
  • Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures
  • Operation at night

There are many companies that charge for Part 107 training classes, both in person and online. A typical class costs $150.00. Some people pass the test by watching free YouTube videos. Another good option is to get a review book. The author favors a book called, The Remote Pilot Test Prep 2021, by ASA Test Prep. The FAA publishes a book that is used in conjunction with the ASA book. It is called, FAA-CT-8080-2H Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, Remote Pilot, and Private Pilot.

The key to the ASA book approach is the quizzes at the end of each chapter and the online access to 5 free practice tests that are available with the purchase of the book. The questions and answers on the chapter quizzes and the online tests are very similar to the actual Part 107 exam. The aviation maps, charts and tables in the FAA Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement are nearly identical to those that appear on the real exam.

When working through the ASA test prep book, make sure to understand and review all quiz questions that are missed, and the topics from which the questions are drawn. Make sure to understand all the quiz questions and answers before taking a practice exam. Then take one practice exam and review the missed questions in the same way as the quizzes. Keep reviewing and taking quizzes and then keep taking the exams until a solid passing score is achieved. Once you’re comfortable with the practice exams, it is time to take the real exam.

The test must be scheduled in advance and taken in person. The FAA provides a list of test centers. The fee is $175 for every test attempt. The exam is two hours long, and there are 60 questions. The test results appear in the student’s IACRA file about 48 hours after the exam.

Once the exam results are in the IACRA file, there is one more step to achieving the drone pilot certification. Within the IACRA profile, an application for the Part 107 certification must be submitted to the FAA. Even though the test has been passed, it is still necessary to apply for the certification. If that seems confusing, it is. Just remember the steps: Set up the IACRA profile.

Note the FTN number. Make sure to enter the same FTN number when signing up to take the Part 107 exam. The results of the exam will appear in the IACRA folder a few days later.

Use the exam results to make an application within the IACRA profile, for the Part 107 certification. Once that is completed, a temporary certificate is available online to print out. The permanent airman card showing the Part 107 certification will be mailed to you within a few weeks. Remember that proof of certification needs to be carried with you during all drone operations. By virtue of preparation for and passing the exam, the Part 107 certificate holder understands how to fly safely and legally. The following highlights and introduces some important points, but is by no means a complete explanation.

Rules for Flying

The basic limitations are that a drone must be operated during the day, always in a visual line of sight, and no higher than 400 feet above the ground. The limitations apply in uncontrolled as well as controlled airspace. In uncontrolled airspace, there is either no need for Air Traffic Control (ATC), or it is not practical. The Part 107 remote pilot is expected to fly by the rules anyway.

But in controlled airspace that is usually found around airports and densely populated areas, it is necessary for the part 107 pilot to request authorization from ATC.

Authorization may include additional limitations on altitude and other aspects of drone flight. There are many caveats to these rules. For example, uncontrolled airspace can be temporarily controlled or restricted due to a public event, such as a football game, or the presence of VIPs. The remote pilot finds out about these exceptions by reading the Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS) that are available online.

Inspectors that perform roof inspections in urban and suburban environments often find themselves in controlled airspace. One look at an aviation chart will show how complicated navigating in controlled airspace can be (See Figure 2: Aviation Sectional of Southern Los Angeles, CA). Since the drone pilot is flying in a very localized area and at an altitude safely below manned aircraft, things are a little simpler.

Figure 2: Aviation Sectional of Southern Los Angeles, CA
Figure 3: Grid from Airmap.com showing maximum altitude

To make things easier for commercial drone pilots, the FAA has partnered with some online sites that provide ATC authorization in near real-time. The system is called the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC). Airmap.com and KittyHawk.io are two websites that will display ATC authorization in real-time. Applying for authorization is almost as simple as placing a pin on a digital map. For each flight, the pilot logs the location, date, and time of the desired flight, the drone that will be used, the altitude and the duration of the flight. Figure 3 shows a screenshot from Airmap.com. Outside the blue circle is uncontrolled air space. The red dots indicate restricted airspace. (See Figure 3: Grid from Airmap.com showing maximum altitude).

Under normal circumstances, the authorization from ATC will come back in a few minutes. Authorization comes with some notes about the flight, relevant Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS), and a brief weather report for the time and location of the flight. It is a good idea to book the flight at least the day before in case there is an issue. For example, if the inspection site is very close to an airport or in a restricted area, the allowed altitude may be reduced to 0. It is good to know that sooner than a few hours before the inspection.

Hopefully, this article has presented a useful introduction to getting a Part 107 license and flying in a controlled airspace. There is a lot more to learn about safe commercial drone flying. The first step is to get an FAA IACRA profile set up. The next is to study for and pass the Part 107 exam. Then, use the results of the Part 107 exam to apply for certification within the IACRA profile. Finally, use LAANC for rapid ATC flight authorization.

NRCIA Members get a discount on education services provided by Drone Pilot Ground School. Sign in and visit the member portal for more information.

Great Example of An Inspection Report

Below is an inspection report compiled and published by Jeff B of Cert-A-Roof. Note the detail that was put into this report which provides homeowners with actionable insight into the health of their roof system.

 

 

 

 

Want to learn how to better utilize InspectionPLUS?

 

Contact us at support@nrcia.org to set up training for you and your team.

 

 

New Preferred Partner: RAES

NRCIA is excited to announce our new partnership with RAES!

 

RAES provides solutions exclusively for roofing and exterior contractors with custom management software and business consulting services that optimize your sales, production, and accounting operations.

While business owners and their administrative team might be adept at the professional skills customers expect, the reputation of a company can often be left vulnerable to the shortcomings of subcontractors and other associates. Whether a sales rep neglects to follow-up with a quote, your supplier loses track of your order, or your subcontractor no-call no-shows, as far as the customer is concerned, the buck stops with you and your company.

That is why Robert Budron founded RAES. His company’s driving idea is that, with the right tools, business owners in the roofing and exterior restoration industry can greatly reduce and even eliminate many of the common problems plaguing their reputation with customers. RAES focuses on developing personalized solutions for roofing and exterior contractors through a combination of technology and consultative business services.

We invite you to learn more about RAES and how they are helping owners take back control over their business, and in the process, RAES the industry standard.

Website: https://raes.io
Contact: sales@raes.solutions

 

 

 

The Future is Certified Roof Inspections

The dawning of a new year puts everyone in the mindset of thinking ahead while reflecting on the past. We pause to realize how much has changed and wonder what lies before us in the year ahead. This isn’t just true when it comes to your personal life. It’s true in the roofing industry, specifically with the increased demand for quality roof inspections.

 

As your experts in roofing, we’ve seen clear trends emerging in recent years and months. Our decades in the industry give us insight into trends that will be shifting the industry in the coming year. To help you stay ahead, our specialists are sharing our top predictions for roof inspections and our tips for making 2022 a year of growth for your business.

 

 

Our Predictions for the Future of Roof Inspections

 

The techniques, trends, and professional landscape of roof inspections are always changing, and keeping up with those shifts will help you to stay competitive and deliver the highest-quality service to your clients. Here’s a peek into what we expect to see in 2022.

 

Expansion of High Consumer Expectations

 

California is a cornerstone of many industries, and it’s a uniquely important player in the nationwide roof inspection market, too. Homeowners and real estate professionals in California expect and require high quality from their roofing contractors as well as their roof inspectors, and this has made it a competitive market where only the best can win. However, we’re seeing more and more Californians leaving the state and moving elsewhere.

 

As homeowners leave California, they will take their expectations to their new locations throughout the country. As a result, inspectors and contractors across the US should use this opportunity to get accredited through the NRCIA or you will be playing catch up.

 

Spread of Regulations

 

Speaking of the Golden State, California has long been a trendsetter in legislation and regulations. Oftentimes, California will make a new policy change or institute a new regulation first. Other states will watch how it goes, learn from any growing pains that appeared, and then implement a similar change with potential tweaks.

 

We expect this to continue to happen throughout 2022 and beyond. Roof inspectors nationwide should keep an eye on California’s regulations and start planning ways to adjust to those same regulations if and when their own states follow suit. If you do this, you’re less likely to find yourself scrambling to implement the changes when the law does take effect in your state.

 

Demand for Certification

 

When it comes to inspections, some markets are more informal than others. In a small rural town, it might be perfectly normal to have the local handyman inspect roofs because he happens to know a lot about construction.

 

This is likely to change, though. California homeowners, real estate professionals, and insurance professionals demand professional roof inspectors who are certified by the NRCIA. As current and former Californians continue to move throughout the country, the demand for official, specialized, certified roof inspectors will grow nationwide, so certification will become even more vital for your business. Due to the growing demand, certain municipalities are now requiring a roof to be certified during the real estate transaction

 

 

How to Keep Up with Rising Consumer Expectations as a Roof Inspector

 

Our predictions for the years ahead in roof inspections generally carry one theme: increased expectations and demands for higher-quality roof inspectors. To make sure that this works for you instead of against you, follow these top tips.

 

Continuously Update Your Knowledge

 

No one is all-knowing in the roof inspections industry. There are always new techniques and improvements that arise, tricks and tools that appear on the scene, and so on. To provide your clients with the best information about their roofs, you need to continually update your knowledge.

 

There are plenty of ways to do this. NRCIA alone offers online training courses, ride-along opportunities, and more. There are also other online courses, blogs, and seminars you can participate in to hear new ideas and refine your strategies.

 

Consider Expanding Your Specialization

 

If you want to grow your business in a competitive market, one option is to expand your expertise and become certified in forensic roof inspection. Not only will the certification open the door for many new opportunities but while you study for your certification, you’re likely to learn more about roof systems. This can make you a better choice even for clients who only need a standard roof inspection.

 

Get Involved in the Industry Community

 

No matter how long you’ve been in the business, you have plenty to learn from your fellow roof inspectors. That’s why it is so important to get involved in the roof inspection community and maintain connections with colleagues.

 

You can network with other inspectors online, attend industry events, interact in online discussion groups, and more. This will help you predict the trends and shifts in the industry much as we’ve done in this article. It’s also a strong business practice because your connections with other professionals often lead to new opportunities and referrals.

 

 

Making 2022 Your Best Year in Roof Inspections

 

The constant changes in our world can make everything feel like moving targets, but there are positives to this state of constant change. We are constantly finding new ways to help clients and deliver more information and higher-quality details in roof inspections, and if you’re keeping up, you can stay at the top of your game and your local market.

 

To learn more, check out our guide to becoming an NRCIA.

 

 

New Preferred Partner: The Roofer’s Helper

 

NRCIA is excited to announce our new partnership with The Roofer’s Helper!

 

The Roofer’s Helper is a media company that provides roofing resources for contractors and homeowners, and promotes roofing contractors and vendors on social media and the web.

 

Their roofing resources provide contractors with helpful information, tips, and news that are needed to build a successful roofing venture.

 

Follow them on Facebook or Instagram to stay up-to-date on the one of the biggest networks of roofers

 

 

Becoming an NRCIA Authorized Company

 

 

A roofing company that wants to expand its business, or even potentially add a new revenue stream can earn accreditation with the NRCIA. Whether the roofing company is considering one inspector or a full team, we can accommodate any type of company.

 

NRCIA Membership

 

There are several membership levels open, each with more ways to gain new business. Members beyond the affiliate level will receive our LeakFREE training to understand the NRCIA’s process and procedures. 

 

Inspectors receive training on NRCIA’s 5-zone inspection process and how to provide their clients with a photo-centric inspection report using proprietary inspection software. NRCIA’s reporting process refines the consultation process enabling roofers to review and offer guaranteed and warrantied services for their customers. 

 

Any roofing contractor that selects to join NRCIA also joins our growing network of roofing contractors and receives unqualified leads when property owners contact the NRCIA. Learn more about the benefits and ROI of being an NRCIA member by reviewing our success guides.

 

NRCIA Authorized Company

 

Becoming an NRCIA’s Authorized Contractor allows the contractor to sign up their entire roofing team. This is a great opportunity for continuing education in the contractor’s field and industry, so the contractor can work to expand on offering services to grow their revenue streams. 

 

This team-based membership allows company administrators to manage multiple inspectors. Small and medium-sized companies can multiply their income, especially in highly-dense residential areas with this membership.

Case Study

 

Paid inspection appointments create qualified leads. By producing thorough NRCIA inspection reports, their conversions from appointments into jobs and certifications increased.

Additionally, the sale of NRCIA’s LeakFREE® roof certifications turned into a source of recurring revenue, as annual maintenance inspections are required as a condition of certification.

 

Interested in joining, but want to talk with someone first? Schedule a demo today!

 

 

 

What is a LeakFREE® Guarantee?

NRCIA Certified Inspectors specialize in providing high-quality roof inspections and certifications for residential and commercial properties. NRCIA’s LeakFREE® roof inspections provide actionable insight into a roof system and the LeakFREE® roof certification guarantees the integrity of the roof system. 

 

LeakFREE® roof inspections

 

The NRCIA maximizes roof life by using its proprietary inspection process to inspect the roof. Following the NRCIA roof inspection protocols, a trained NRCIA Certified® roof inspector begins the five-zone LeakFREE® roof inspection by examining the interior, accessible attic, and attached garage to examine any visual evidence of a roof leak.

 

 

Evidence found in the first three zones informs the roof inspector of what to inspect when they reach the rooftop. At the fourth zone, the inspector examines the building’s perimeter to look for further evidence of leaks or damage, such as water stains and dry rot. After these observations are complete, the inspector moves to the roof and performs a visual, non-destructive examination. Each roof type and material has different critical areas, and the specialist is trained to pay special attention to these potential trouble spots.

 

 

LeakFREE® roof certification

 

NRCIA’s LeakFREE® Roof Certification is more than a workmanship warranty. With the LeakFREE® Roof Certification, you can have total assurance that your entire roof — not just the repair site — will remain leak-free for the duration of your certification period. If a LeakFREE® roof experiences problems during a certification period, your NRCIA inspector will fix the problem. 

 

The inspectors or contractors need to be certified through the NRCIA to file this type of service. If issues arise or claims need to be filed; there is a simple process for the homeowner to follow to get their roof system in peak condition again.

 

The LeakFREE® Roof Certification guarantee is never prorated and will last up to ten years before another inspection and recertification need to be done on the roof in question. Some warranties and inspections will pro-rate the timeline. The LeakFREE® roof certification and warranty are valid up to ten years from the date the repairs and maintenance were completed. 

 

 

The Guarantee

 

Residential and commercial owners are guaranteed quality, detailed work from NRCIA professionals that will leave owners assured of the health and safety of their roof system. LeakFREE services can only be offered by active & credentialed NRCIA members. 

 

 

Are you interested in becoming an NRCIA Inspector?

Do you need to find an NRCIA Inspector?

 

 

How To Be A Roofing Authority

When you become a Certified NRCIA Roof Inspector, you become an expert. Your certification brings authority to your work, and it is often under-utilized by inspectors. Here are tips to help build your credibility when working with clients.

1. Look and act the part of a professional

We avoid judging books by their covers, but everyone still makes snap judgments on first impressions. That is why it is vital to make sure you project your expertise.

+ Arrive 15 minutes early to prepare for your upcoming appointment. If you know you may be late (traffic, unexpected events, etc..), make sure to call your client and inform them that you will be late and give them an updated ETA.

+ Wear and tuck in a collared shirt that displays your NRCIA patch (need additional patches? email us at support@nrcia.org).

+ Organize your tools. Whether it is the tools in your truck or the tools you carry in your belt, keep things tidy.

+ Treat the client’s house like it is your house: always wear shoe covers and be diligent when going through exterior doors keeping pets in and pests out.

+ Follow up with requested materials and reports as soon as you can. The recommended turnaround time is 24 hours.

2. Introduce yourself as a certified inspector

When meeting or calling the client for the first time, introduce yourself with your NRCIA credentials. The client will feel reassured because they know they are working with an expert.

Example of a poor introduction

Hi. I am Bill, a roofer with Bob’s Roofing Company.

Example of a great introduction

Hi. I am Bill, an NRCIA Certified Roof Inspector with Bob’s Roofing Company.

Introduce yourself and your company with a smile even when on a phone call. Your smile will come through in your voice, and it will establish a friendly and professional encounter.

“Expressions that one wears on one’s face is far more important than the clothes one wears on one’s back” – Dale Carnegie: How To Win Friends & Influence People

3. Complete the right type of inspection

Listen to your clients carefully. Understand their needs and their goals. Then use the information provided to correctly identify the service they need and the price of your inspection. Your expertise is valuable; charge for your services accordingly. Every customer wants quality work and understands that extra attention to detail costs more.

Knowing when to recommend different inspections will help address the client’s need and ensure that you are getting paid the true value of your labor. Correctly identifying the service type will also save time during the inspection and reporting process. Refer to our pricing guide and our inspection type decision tree for more help. These resources are also great to share with your assistant or support team.

4. Tell don’t sell

You are their roofing consultant. Educating your clients about your work and their roof system is more effective than selling them jobs. If you can effectively communicate with your clients, address their issues, and provide the proper solution, you will not need to rely on selling as much. Show how your services can help solve their problems. Trust that the inspection process and your professionalism will do the work in securing jobs.

This is key for inspections when the client is not requesting roof work, just a third-party roof inspection. Your assistance and guidance in solving their problem will give you the advantage over competitors. If you try to sell them something they expressly do not want, you will hurt the opportunity and potentially your credibility with the client.

Lastly, inspectors should try to show clients the problems they observed before they leave the inspection site. Briefly walking the client through each point helps the client understand your work. This helps to build better trust and communication between you and the client.

5. Communicate effectively

Avoid using technical jargon with clients. Inspectors should use simple terms that are easy to understand.

Additionally, it is okay to not know something. If this happens, let clients know that you do not know the answer, but you will research the question and get back to them. Honesty, humility, and transparency go a long way and help you avoid embarrassing situations. The last thing you should do is talk about something you do not know. Whether it is pricing or problems, pretending to know something will only hurt your relationship with the client.

Answer all questions before leaving a job site or ending a call. Let the clients talk through their questions and practice active listening. At the end of each call or conversation, take care to explicitly state or write the next steps.

Closing Inspection Example:

I appreciate you letting Bob’s Roofing Company help you with your roofing needs. If I have answered all of your questions, I will return to my office to begin working on the roof inspection report. You can expect to have your inspection report within 24 hours. I would love to answer any additional questions after you have had the time to review our report. Have a wonderful day!

6. Trust yourself

You are a Certified Roof Inspector. Lean into who you are, and if you complete your work following the NRCIA process, everything else will fall into place.

It may take some time to navigate what educational jargon to use and the proper way to relay critical information, but your client is hiring you because of your expertise, your reputation, and now your accreditation.

Be confident in yourself, your knowledge, and your services, and know your worth because it is valuable.

Have questions? Want to talk to an NRCIA instructor to discuss roofing or inspection issues? Contact us at support@nrcia.org

5 Zone Roof Inspection with Paul

Paul and our members at Cert-A-Roof have teamed up to provide another deep dive into the inspection process. NRCIA’s inspection standards and procedures are the most thorough and transparent in the roofing industry. Our members aim to provide you with accurate and actionable insight into your roof’s health.

Follow along as Paul (NRCIA Member #001011) takes you through an NRCIA LeakFREE® Roof Inspection. He will guide you through the 5-zone roof inspection and provide in-depth commentary on what NRCIA inspectors will be looking for during their inspection.

Learn how the NRCIA and our Certified Roof Inspectors provide a world-class inspection on every roof!



 

Interested in becoming an inspector? 

Interested in having your roof inspected by an NRCIA member?

 

 

 

NRCIA Roof Inspection with Paul

Your roof’s health is important. A roof inspection is a great way to extend the lifespan of your roof system. However, it can be hard to understand exactly what inspectors are looking for during roof inspections or what their proposals mean for you after they complete the inspection.

 

Many roof inspectors provide either vague details or go overboard with technical jargon. The NRCIA provides homeowners’ peace of mind by providing a comprehensive, actionable, and understandable diagnosis of their roof’s health.

 

Follow along as Paul (NRCIA Member #001011) takes you through an NRCIA LeakFREE® Roof Inspection. He will guide you through the 5-zone roof inspection and provide in-depth commentary on what NRCIA inspectors will be looking for during their inspection.

 

Learn how the NRCIA and our Certified Roof Inspectors provide a world-class inspection on every roof!

 


Interested in becoming an inspector? 

Interested in having your roof inspected by an NRCIA member?