Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, October 9, 2015

Property inspections reaching new heights in Chattanooga

Melanie Moore of Full Disclosure Home Inspection is now using a professional drone to examine hard-to-reach places. - (Photo by David Laprad)

Property inspector Melanie Moore is pleased with her new superpower. Like Superman, she’s now able to fly above the rooftops of the homes and commercial properties she examines, allowing her to scrutinize otherwise inaccessible areas for problems.

Moore’s feet never actually leave the ground, though. Rather, she lets her professional drone do the flying for her as she navigates it safely from below.

Her hands gripping the remote controller, which looks like an oversized gamepad, Moore starts the drone. Humming like a swarm of angry wasps, the device lifts obediently off the sidewalk outside the home where Moore is shooting a commercial and then hovers at eye level. With slight movements of her thumbs, Moore guides the unit toward a chimney top that extends several feet above a steep roof.

Without the aid of the drone, it’s unlikely any property inspector would be able to peer into the tall, covered vent. “Some rooftops are too steep to be safe, and some chimney tops are inaccessible,” Moore says.

The drone, a DJI Phantom 3 weighing just under three pounds, looks easy to control, and responds immediately to Moore’s input. A 12-megapixel 4K camera installed on its undercarriage sends live video to her tablet computer, allowing Moore to not only see what the drone “sees” but also save the video so she can scrutinize it later.

“Using the drone makes the home inspection process more comprehensive,” Moore says. “I can see things the naked eye normally would miss.”

Moore edges the drone to within a few feet of the chimney top to demonstrate, positioning it so the camera gives her a detailed view of its mouth. She then backs the drone away and raises a finger to point at the flashings along the base of the chimney. “While the drone is up there, I can also look at the flashings, the condition of the roof, and the ridge vents,” she says. “I can even check your gutters.”

Moore says the drone doesn’t replace her eyes, but rather is an extension of them. Even when using the device, she still goes the old school route as much as possible, including climbing onto a roof. But when something is beyond her reach or is too risky to inspect, her drone takes over from there.

“My primary tool is me,” she says. “I purchased the drone to keep me healthy and still be able to give my customers a full report.”

Moore’s drone is not the only high-tech tool she’s purchased for use during property inspections. Five years ago, she was the first local inspector to use an infrared thermography camera to peer through walls to see roof or plumbing leaks, HVAC system air leaks, missing insulation, and overloaded electrical circuits. In other words, this second Superman-like ability has allowed Moore to find problems a surface assessment wouldn’t have.

“I believe in performing the most thorough inspections possible,” Moore, a 33-year-veteran of the construction industry, says.

Moore says she’s the first home inspector in Chattanooga to use drone technology as well. But that doesn’t mean she’s raising her prices or charging extra. Rather, she includes the use of her state-of-the-art tools free of additional charge when needed.

Moore brings her drone back to its launching point and gently sets it down. Her flight complete, she lets out a cheer and performs a brief victory dance. “That was fun,” she says, a look of geeky joy on her face.

As Moore packs the unit in its protective case, she says she’s always worked hard to educate herself, sharpen her skills, and keep up with the latest technology, all in an effort to excel at her work. And she will continue to do so.

“My clients are trusting me to help them make one of the biggest decisions of their lives,” she says, “and I take that responsibility seriously.”

To learn more about Full Disclosure Home Inspection or to book a property inspection, visit fdhomeinspection.com.