Engineering studies fall into a number of categories, from general condition surveys (such as reserve studies and pre-purchase inspections) to problem-solving investigations and forensic examinations. Within those categories, there are generally three (3) levels of need.
Joseph D. Shuffleton
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There is a lot of talk these days about using drones to inspect exterior building walls. Aside from issues regarding safety, liability, federal regulations, etc. there is little doubt that up close video photography can be a helpful tool. Visual inspection using binoculars from ground-level or other vantage points is a basic part of exterior wall inspection and investigation procedures. This process can only benefit from the use of drones in terms of being able to quickly examine large areas with good quality imaging (documentation).
However, any visual inspection is limited. An up-close inspection by a qualified inspector or engineer (using a roof-mounted swing stage, scaffolding, or a man-lift) provides the most reliable information possible by allowing the person to touch, probe, and sound (tap) areas of concern to check for delamination, stability, soundness, etc.
In addition, having an individual “on the wall” allows for intrusive sampling needed to determine in-place, hidden conditions. Visual examination alone cannot fully evaluate these matters.
Yes, drones can be a valuable part of an exterior wall inspection and/or evaluation. We own a drone and use it for certain inspections. However, drones alone are not capable of providing all the information necessary to perform a complete and comprehensive investigation of exterior walls or building conditions.