FAA grants commercial night flight exemption to Tremco Roofing

By Patrick C. Miller | April 28, 2016

Ohio-based Tremco Roofing and Building Maintenance has become the first U.S. business to receive permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly nighttime commercial operations using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

Robb Chauvin, Tremco Roofing’s executive director of inspection services, said the company recognizes the importance to the construction industry of conducting UAS operations safely and successfully at night.

“It’s bigger than just us,” he explained. “We’re the standard-bearer on this for nighttime flight in the construction world. We understand the importance of getting it right. In a world where typically you wish your competition would never follow, this is a cutting-edge grant of exemption.”

Tremco Roofing, which has nearly 90 years of experience in the roofing business, uses the SkyBEAM (Building Envelope Aerial Mapping) UAS to fly building inspections. The drones employ high-definition video and thermographic (infrared) cameras to locate energy leaks, rooftop damage, deteriorating façades, safety issues and other potential problems.

“Compliance with the grant of exemption is our No. 1 priority, and that’s akin to the FAA’s No. 1 priority, which is safety of participants and non-participants,” Chauvin said.

According to Bob Spreat, Tremco Roofing’s marketing and communications director, nighttime flights are vital because infrared scanning is most effective when the sun isn’t warming a building. Traditional infrared scans require technicians to traverse rooftops at night while façade inspections are usually conducted from scaffolding or cranes.

In addition to safety, using UAS for the job offers a number of advantages for roof and facade inspections, Chauvin said.

“You’re not just going up there, looking at it and reporting on paper; you’re capturing what you see with the recordable devices,” he said. “It just becomes so much more effective and comprehensive in terms of what the options are for the building owner. The first place to start in making decisions is with diagnostics. This is a great tool to deliver that.”

Toronto-based Industrial SkyWorks (ISW) developed SkyBEAM in partnership with Tremco. ISW has been operating Tremco Roofing SkyBEAM drones in Canada over the past 18 months. The FAA has approved ISW to operate SkyBEAM commercially in the U.S. for daytime and nighttime flights.

“Our best customers have a low tolerance for air and water infiltration,” Chauvin said.

Using UAS gives Tremco roofing a powerful tool to quickly and accurately locate the cause of air and water leaks that jeopardize their customers’ businesses.

“You would never dream of going into surgery without having an MRI or an x-ray,” Chauvin related. “Why should a building be any different? Why should you just look at the surface of what you think the cause is without finding the root cause and then spend money unwisely?”

As Spreat pointed out, using an unmanned aerial vehicle for inspections and diagnostics provides the company’s customers value beyond the ability to fly over a building.

“The end result is being able to show the customer graphically—in detail with high-resolution photography and video—where their building is having problems,” he said. “It’s not just the UAV, it’s the entire system and, ultimately, it’s the graphic output that the customer gets that shows them where their problems are which then allows us to work with them on a plan of remediation.”

And, he concluded, “One of the real benefits of using a UAV is that it not only confirms the issues you suspected, but it can also tell you if what you suspected is incorrect and the problem lies elsewhere.”


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