Thermal Image of a roof

Do drones have thermal cameras?

There are a number of drones on the market with thermal cameras. These drones are used by professional drone users for many tasks across different industries.

Drones equipped with thermal cameras can perform many very useful tasks. Helping emergency services with search and rescue. The images can help detect water ingress on damaged roofs. They can help show drainage issues in fields. The images can highlight damage, such as cracks, before they are visible. They can highlight poor insulation. The images can even show buried structures.

In this post we will examine some of the tasks that a drone with a thermal camera can undertake. We will also provide information on the drones themselves.

Total Reading Time: 7m 50s

Which drones have thermal cameras?

Picture of a Parrot ANAFI Thermal drone.
Parrot ANAFI Thermal

There are a number of thermal camera equipped drones on the market. These drones are not marketed, or priced, for the recreational flyer. An “entry level” drone with this capability will still have a price tag of over £2,000 when you add items such as extra batteries.

The drones at this “entry level” are those like the Parrot ANAFI Thermal or the DJI Mavic Enterprise Dual. These two drones have a sensor resolution of 160×120 pixels.

Picture of a Yuneec H520E Drone
Yuneec H520E

Stepping up in thermal camera resolution you could look at n a drone such as the DJI Mavic Enterprise Advanced, with its 640×512 pixel resolution sensor.

At the top end of the market the drones tend to act as the flight platform, allowing you to use different cameras. For example you can use the Zenmuse H20T thermal camera with the DJI Matrice 300 series drone. The Yuneec H520E can use a Yuneec E10Tv thermal camera.

Can a drones thermal camera see through walls?

In a word, no!

Despite what you see in movies, the thermal camera on a drone can’t see what is happening behind a wall. The thermal camera is detecting heat on the surface of what it is looking at. It isn’t looking behind or under that surface.

The thermal camera can’t see through windows either. Glass acts like a mirror to a thermal imaging camera. The drone operator will more likely see a thermal image of themselves reflected in the glass.

When can a thermal camera be used?

This is an important question because the time of day, the season and the weather will have a big impact on the results from a thermal camera.

If you wanted to find areas on a flat roof where there was water ingress then the summer would be better. The summer sun would heat the roof and, as it cools, the areas with more moisture would cool at a slower rate.

The summer is also a good time to inspect solar panels since defective cells will appear cooler than those around them. It is also possible to see hotspots which could be the result of a malfunctioning converter.

If you want to spot gaps in the insulation of your home, or to see how effective your insulation is, then cooler months are better. Autumn and early winter are good times for this type of inspection since there will be a noticeable difference between the inside and outside temperatures. This temperature difference helps to provide clearer thermal images.

Can a thermal camera help with roofing inspections.

When people think of using a drone to inspect a roof they tend to think of the insulation and where heat is escaping.

A thermal camera equipped drone can also highlight other issues with the roof.

Do you have a leak you can’t find the source of? A thermal camera can be a useful tool for finding this. As the roof cools any area which has more moisture will cool at a slower rate than the drier surrounding area.

A thermal camera can see this difference in temperature, which could highlight the source of your leak.

Many modern extensions have flat roofs which, if poorly installed or maintained, can allow water ingress leading to problems in the future. The thermal camera can be great for detecting small gaps where water is gaining access.

If you have solar panels attached to your roof then the drone can be used to inspect these too.

Can a thermal camera show poor insulation?

Using a drone to check how the insulation in your home, or commercial building, is performing is a great use for the thermal camera.

Thermal image of a house.

The drone can image your property from various angles and show where heat may be escaping through gaps in the insulation. You may think your property is well insulated but it can be surprising to see how much heat escapes and from where.

Do you, for instance, have rooms which always seem colder than others? The thermal camera may show heat loss in the roof area above that room. The thermal camera could also highlight heat escaping through poorly sealed vents or flues.

Having the information about heat loss in your building can enable you to improve the insulation in a targeted way. By knowing where to improve the insulation you’ll not only save on installation costs but also through savings in reduced ongoing energy use.

Is a thermal camera useful in the renewable energy industry?

Thermal camera equipped drones can provide huge benefits to the renewable energy industry.

Solar panel thermal image.

The ability of the drone to quickly cover large areas makes it ideal for inspecting solar energy farms efficiently. The thermal camera can help to spot cells which may be defective, showing as cooler than neighbouring cells. The thermal camera can also see hotspots on the panels which can highlight a failing converter.

Wind turbines are another renewable energy structure which benefit from inspection with a thermal camera. Inspecting the edges of the blades with a thermal camera can highlight small cracks before they are visible. The thermal camera can also help to inspect the nacelle area for overheating of the sensitive electronic components.

It’s not only renewable energy that can benefit from drones equipped with thermal cameras. Electricity power lines and pylons can be inspected to identify hot spots which can show failing components.

Can a thermal camera help farmers?

Agriculture is a very interesting use for a thermal camera equipped drone.

The visible light camera can help farmers to track plant growth, spot areas of damage in a field and even count individual plants. A standard camera can also provide some insights into the health of the plants.

Thermal image of plants in a field.

The thermal camera takes this information further. The thermal camera can help to identify areas of water stress in a crop. When a plant is healthy, and has plenty of water, it will tend to be cooler than a plant which is under stress due to a lack of water. This can lead to the identification of drainage issues and aid in the planning of effective irrigation.

Combining the thermal and standard images from the drone will provide the farmer with a more complete view of large areas of land. This saves both time and money by allowing them to target any remedial action or treatment. By improving the crop health, and by being able to track the effectiveness of the treatment, there is the potential to improve the yield.

How does a thermal camera help the emergency services?

The use of a thermal camera equipped drone to help the emergency services highlights how beneficial drones can be. Drones can help save lives when used by the emergency services.

Police services can use thermal camera equipped drones when searching for missing people. Mountain Rescue services can use them to quickly locate people in difficulty.

There are examples of more localised use of thermal camera equipped drones to help find missing pets. It’s not uncommon for local drone companies to become involved in these searches since the drone can cover large areas quickly.

The thermal camera can also “see though” smoke. The smoke will tend to be cooler than the fire behind it or the person in trouble.

The thermal camera will help fire services to spot areas which are still hot and at risk of re-igniting.

When responding to a major incident, the emergency services can make use of the drone to image the entire scene. The thermal camera provides the extra capability of seeing heat sources – is it a person? Is that area still hot enough to start a fire?

Is a thermal camera useful in archaeology?

Archaeology may not be a use for a drone equipped with a thermal camera that springs immediately to mind.

The thermal camera can help archaeologists to spot parts of a building which are buried just beneath the surface of the ground.

When the ground heats and then cools, a structure such as a buried wall will cool at a different rate to the soil around it. If the structure is close enough to the surface then this will show as a difference in temperature. This difference is exactly what the thermal camera can detect.

Even more information can be obtained by using both the thermal camera and normal camera on the drone. When combined, the images create elevation maps of the ground, overviews of the visible surface, and any temperature differences.

With this information the archaeologist has much more information when making decisions about where to focus their investigations.

Are drone services which use thermal cameras expensive?

The investment that a drone services company needs to make to allow them to offer thermal camera based services is not insignificant. It is not a case of buying a drone and offering the services.

The drone services company will also invest time and money in training, learning how to interpret the thermal images.

This does not mean that the thermal services will be expensive. Drone services companies with a thermal capability will tend to offer these services as an add-on rather than a stand-alone cost.

You may find that for a little extra the drone services company can take the thermal images at the same time as inspecting your property.

There may be an extra cost because of the extra image post-processing the drone services company will need to do.

You may also find that a drone services company will include thermal imaging in some of their packaged offers. It is usually easier to provide extra services, such as thermal imaging, at the same time as related services.


The aim of this post is to provide information about how drones equipped with thermal cameras can be helpful in many situations.

Identifying poor insulation can help you save money on improvements to the insulation and lead to lower energy use.

By being able to visualise crop stress farmers can look at more targeted ways to improve the health of the crop.

Using a thermal camera equipped drone, energy companies can spot problems early and plan maintenance or repairs.

The thermal camera provides extra information that can lead to real savings.

When used by emergency services and first responders they can actually help to save lives.

So, the answer to a simple question of “Do drones have thermal cameras?” is Yes!

Going beyond the simple question shows how useful a thermal camera equipped drone can actually be, and the services that drone services companies can offer.

Can a drone be used to inspect a roof?

Can a drone be used to inspect a roof?

In a single word, yes!

Whether the building is your home or a commercial building, a drone roofing inspection can be a great option to help when assessing the condition of the roof.

The high-resolution camera and the ability of the drone operator to position the drone at almost any point above the roof makes the drone a very useful tool for roof surveys.

In this post, we examine how a drone is an effective tool for roof surveys on both residential and commercial properties.

Total Reading Time: 7m 30s

What is the difference between a roof inspection and a roof survey?

There is an important difference between a roof inspection and a roof survey.

A roof inspection is an external visual assessment of the condition of the roof. It will examine the state of the roof covering, gutters and pipes, and other visible areas.

A roof survey is more detailed and is performed by a professional roofing company. They will assess the roof condition for water leaks/ingress, potential failure points, internal structural issues and other items.

This article discusses roof inspections.

When would a roof inspection be needed?

Roof condition inspections are required when there is a suspected problem with the roof. They are also performed when monitoring the roofs condition as part of a routine maintenance schedule.

A roof may need inspected when it has been damaged by weather or when buying or selling the property.

In these cases, someone will need to be able to see the roof up close and see as much of the roof as possible to assess its condition.

How is a roof inspection usually done?

A traditional roof inspection will involve a professional roofer physically gaining access to the roof and examining different areas of the roof. This may be as simple as the roofer using a ladder, and any skylight access when the roof is easy to access.

If the roof is higher or has poor access, you may need a scissor lift/cherry picker to give the roofer a platform for examining the roof. For a roof with very poor access the roofer may need to use scaffolding.

A roof inspection takes place at height which can never be completely safe. Qualified roofing companies will put in place training and safety procedures to make the process as safe as they possibly can.

Is a drone roof inspection safe?

Safety is one of the big benefits of using a drone for a roof inspection. The drone operator will normally be on the ground. The operator will be able to position the drone using both line of sight and the live video feed from the drone camera.

The drone never touches the roof. The high-resolution camera system means that it can take images from several metres away. This is an important point to consider if you are using a drone inspection to visualise a damaged roof that may be unstable.

Residential property roof inspection

A drone is a great way to visualise your roof when you need to look at problem areas. It is quick and safe. The image quality allows you to visualise areas of the roof that would normally be difficult to access.

A drone can, for example, provide excellent images of chimney stacks. A few drones have cameras that can look straight up, which is ideal for seeing underneath any overhangs.

Drone image of part of a residential property roof.

The number of images the drone operator takes will depend on your requirements. You may only need two or three images of a particular part of the roof, or you may require more images to cover the entire roof in detail.

If you are on-site with the drone operator then you can request particular images and angles. You can often see the images right away to ensure they meet your specific requirements.

Drones can also be used to take video clips of the roof. The drone could, for instance, provide a clip of a slow flight along the lines of guttering to allow you to check for blockages.

Other, often overlooked, aspects of a drone-based roof inspection is that you can ask the drone operator for images of other parts of the house. Maybe you have hard-to-reach windows which need repairs. The drone operator could take images of those at the same time to allow you to assess the state of repair.

Drones can also be equipped with thermal cameras that can provide even more information about the condition of the roof.

Commercial property roof inspection

All of the benefits of a residential, drone-based, roof inspection also apply to commercial buildings.

However, commercial property roof inspections differ from residential property roof inspections in a number of important ways.

Commercial inspections can form part of a regular maintenance inspection for the roof.

A drone can be used for routine imaging of the roof to help detect potential issues before they become serious. This allows the work to repair the affected area to be factored into a maintenance plan.

Aerial picture of commercial buildings.

Commercial buildings also tend to be much larger than residential properties. This makes using a drone to gather the images even more attractive.

The drone can fly for as long as the battery has a charge. Typically a drone used for roof inspections will have a flight time of around 25 minutes per battery. A good drone services company will always arrive on-site with multiple batteries per drone and with at least one backup drone.

For larger commercial buildings, the drone can be pre-programmed with a flight plan to cover the entire roof surface. This opens the possibility of creating a single image of a large roof area. This is done by stitching together multiple images to form a single image known as an orthomosaic. This technique is commonly used for imaging large areas of farmland or construction sites.

If there are multiple commercial buildings on the same site, then the drone operator can potentially image several buildings in a single visit.

All the captured images, and video, from the drone flights, can then be examined from the comfort of the office.

Can a drone be beneficial to a roofing company?

A drone can be a great tool for a roofing company to use to obtain roof images.

They can use the images to assess problematic areas of the roof surface before sending staff to repair them. They can also the images to spot areas of the roof which need to be surveyed in more detail.

Not every roofing company will be able to own and operate its own drones.

The funding for the drone itself is one element. The staff operating the drone also need to be trained and authorised for commercial flying.

The roofing company may also need specific authorisations from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to operate the drone. This represents an ongoing cost. There are also insurance requirements to consider when operating drones commercially.

Commercial drone operators are required to plan and risk assess every flight. This can be simple and quick. When more complex permissions to fly are required, or the building is close to hazards, the planning will take longer.

There are benefits to both the roofing company and the drone services company when they partner to provide services.

The roofing company can offer drone-based inspections as part of its services. This frees staff for other jobs since they’ll only need to look at the drone images in the first instance.

The drone services company will also have access to qualified roofing professionals. This allows them to provide reports on roofing images for their clients.

Can a roof inspection help progress an insurance claim?

If you are looking for help in supporting a claim to your insurer, or if you are an insurer looking for quick visualisation of damage, a drone is an ideal way to gather images.

House damaged by falling tree

If you need extra information to support a claim, a drone inspection can be a quick option. The images can be included with your claim to support the other details you provide. Obtaining the images will be quick and the insurer will be able to examine the high-resolution images.

For the insurance company, a drone operator can be on-site quickly. They can image the roof to your requirements, and send the images directly to you. Images can be sent from the site or immediately after post-processing.

How much does a drone roof inspection cost?

It may be a standard answer, but the cost of a drone-based roof inspection varies from company to company.

The cost could be as little as £200 for a small number of images of a residential property. For a large commercial property the cost could start at around £450. The quoted price will always reflect your specific requirements.

There are several items that affect the price.

Like any professional service, the level of certification and authorisation the drone services company holds will affect the price.

A cheaper quote could indicate that the company holds basic certification such as the A2 Certificate of Competency (A2CofC).

A higher cost quote could indicate the company holds an operational authorisation from the CAA. This would be the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (GVC).

Note that the company may currently operate under a Permission for Commercial Operation (PfCO) from the CAA. This was the commercial certification used prior to the recent regulation changes which introduced the GVC. Companies that use the PfCO will be moving to the GVC certification.

Companies that hold a PfCO or GVC level of certification are regulated by the CAA.

Any drone company offering commercial services is required to have specific commercial drone insurance cover in place.

The location of the building to be inspected is a key pricing item since it affects both the travel costs and the pre/on-site planning of the inspection.

Planning for a drone flight will look at the location, assess the risks of the site, and determine the required permissions for the drone flight. The drone services company will normally obtain the necessary permissions. If the permissions are complex then this could increase planning time and increase the cost.

Your requirements also have an impact on costs. How many images do you need? Are the images being supplied as-is or do they need post-processing? Does you need a video of the roof? Does you need any extra reporting on the findings? These are just examples, you should always discuss your specific requirements with the drone services company.

It is normal for drone services companies to provide free quotations. You can get in touch with one, or more, and ask for a quote. This will allow you to compare services and is the simplest way to determine how much the inspection will cost.

Most drone services companies are happy to answer questions and provide free information.


View of house from a drone, looking straight down.

The aim of this post is to provide enough information to help you decide if using a drone to inspect a roof is a possible option for you.

A drone is a fantastic tool for visualising places that are at height or difficult to reach. A drone can be used where the roof is damaged. It can also be used as part of a regular maintenance inspection.

By working with a drone services company you should be able to easily get images you need.

Using a drone for a roof inspection is safe, normally very quick and the cost will usually be far lower than hiring a roofing company to physically look at the roof.

When you need a more detailed roof survey the drone operator can partner with a professional roofing company to provide a complete survey service.

So, the answer to “Can a drone be used to survey a roof?” is an emphatic Yes!