Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Roofing company uses drones for job estimates

LINCOLN, Neb. —The military uses drone aircraft to take out terrorists and for surveillance, but one local roofing company is using a drone to help its business domestically.

Luke Hansen, of White Castle Roofing, believes getting a birds-eye view for roofing estimates means an easier, safer job.

He uses an unmanned aircraft, commonly called a drone. The high-resolution video he gets tells him all he needs to know in a matter of minutes instead of hours.

“The other day there was an apartment complex -- 11 buildings four stories tall -- that we blocked off six hours to see how many shingles had blown off. We flew over all the buildings, took a little quick video and it saved us five hours,” Hansen said.

-- Video: Local roofing company uses drone for job estimates

Hansen believes he can use a drone, despite a Federal Aviation Administration ban on commercial use. He referenced a video from Virginia where the pilot who shot it took the FAA to court and got a $10,000 fine dismissed.

“What the judge said was these have been and are legal right now,” Hansen said.

The FAA is appealing in the Virginia case, but it might not make any difference.

“People are really starting to leave the FAA behind,” said Matt Waite, with the University of Nebraska at Lincoln Drone Lab.

Waite said the technology is so much better and cheaper than it used to be and that people have stopped waiting for the FAA to come up with specific regulations.

“The FAA does not have enough people to enforce this policy. There are illegal, or what they call illegal, uses going all the time,” Waite said.

An FAA spokesperson said the way they monitor what they call "unauthorized unmanned flights" is by getting calls from the public, competitors, or seeing them on YouTube or in news stories. The FAA won’t say how many times it has told people to stop, but it has only issued 12 cease and desist orders and fines in two cases.

As for Hansen, he believes he's following the law.

“We just feel this has been a big benefit for us,” he said.

An FAA spokesperson said the draft regulations on domestic unmanned aircraft are expected to come out later this year.

“We are trying to write safety regulations for the busiest, most complex airspace in the world. It's a major challenge to write regulations that ensure the safety and  property on the ground while not placing an undue burden to an emerging industry."

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