BEND, Ore. - The city of Bend has been testing out a new method to perform building inspections. The inspectors will no longer be strapping into harnesses and climbing on roofs. Instead, city officials say, those same inspectors are now flying drones.
Bend’s Building Safety Division started this program in January. That's when the first inspector became certified to fly drones.
Now, officials said the city does a couple of inspections each week using a drone.
Brad Mandal, a building inspector with the city, said Tuesday that drone inspections can offer many advantages. For one, he said it's more efficient, as drones move faster than people. Mandal said it's also cost-effective, as it does not require safety equipment or ladders.
Most of all, Mandal said: It's safer.
"The intent of the program was to provide a level of safety that we didn't have before, by making it so inspectors wouldn't have to harness up to go up on roofs or to get to big heights above the ground and potentially fall," Mandal said.
The department currently has one drone, with four inspectors certified to fly it.
It's used for shearwall inspections, nailing inspections and re-roof inspections, among others.
Mandal said the drone does not perform well when it's actively snowing or raining, but it will be used in other icy, cold conditions.
"The potential for somebody to slip or fall in winter, and we can just take this up and verify what we need to see on top of a roof or whatever and keep them from potentially getting hurt," Mandal said.
Mandal said this new method has been successful so far, but also mentioned a couple challenges may arise as the drones become more commonplace.
"The data storage issues, and people feeling like we're watching them -- you know, like Big Brother's got the camera going,” Mandal said. “So we only use them for the inspections, and at this point we're getting approval from the people on site every time we do it."
Mandal said the city does not plan on keeping the data any longer than it needs to verify the inspections. He said he believes Bend is the only city in the state, and one of about four or five in the nation, to use drones for this purpose.