The Drone Ranger: What Home Inspectors Should Know

Whether it’s encountering a dark space just crawling with animals or an abandoned property that’s seen better days, every home inspector has found themselves in a situation they may not consider totally safe at one point or another. According to Chris Rogers, President of Inspector Bots, a company that produces small robots home inspectors can use when tackling a dangerous property, fear no more. Inspector Bots’ line of camera-ready mini-drones can boldly go where no home inspector wants to go (and record their findings) without risking your safety. We caught up with Rogers to ask how this technology could work in the home inspection profession.


How long have inspection bots been around?

Chris Rogers: I first started noticing inspection robots during the 9/11 World Trade Center disaster. A small robot named Urbie was used in the rubble piles to search for survivors of the terrorist attacks.


What are they currently used for?

Chris Rogers: Inspection Robots are uses to inspect many different things including residential properties, oil and gas pipelines, sewers, commercial facilities, HVAC systems, etc.


Would they be useful to a residential or commercial home inspector?

Chris Rogers: Yes, Definitely! As more and more people accept robots in their daily lives, I think it’s just a matter of time before these inspection robots become just another tool in the residential and commercial inspector’s toolbox.


What is the benefit of having a robot?

Chris Rogers: Inspectorbots Video inspection Systems send back live video of the crawl space and it enables the inspector to virtually “look around.” They can look up, down, left and right and everywhere in between without having to get into the crawl space itself. The video is recordable. The Inspector can then share the findings with the homeowner or customer by reviewing the video. Inspection Robots are now being used by Border Patrol to inspect tunnels used for smuggling drugs into the US. Basically robots are used when the work is dirty difficult or dangerous.


Would you mind going over some of the features of these bots that may be useful when inspecting dangerous places?

Chris Rogers: A popular platform, which I sell for $2990 is the Spider Mite Inspection System. It has a remotely controlled camera on a pan/tilt mechanism which allows the inspector to be located in a safe place while the robot is working in the hazardous or dangerous environment. I’m sure you are are aware of the hazards in crawl spaces such as broken glass, rusty metal, black widow spiders, snakes, asbestos, etc. The system comes with a OCU, or Operator’s Control Unit. The OCU houses the radio controller, the batteries, receiver and a flatscreen display. Other features to look for are rugged four wheel-drive, or tracks, the ability to jump over /crawl under obstacles, onboard lights and a roll cage or some way to protect the sensitive camera equipment.


What type of clients would purchase a bot?

Chris Rogers: Anyone who is tired of crawling into another crawl space or difficult to access area. Many of my clients see the benefit of having a “technological edge” like thermal cameras or a a hIgh-tech robot which not only make their job easier and more fun, but can increase the business’ bottom-line as well. Other customers have specific applications in mind. For example, I have a customer who needed to inspect the sewer lines in Mexico City after a gas pipeline exploded sending a wall of flame four stories high and several blocks long! They needed a system sent out the next day and apparently it worked perfectly for them. We have also done custom work for specialized inspections such as termite inspectors. We even built custom “Super Mega Bot” platforms for customers including General Motors, ABB Robotics and Sharp Electronics.


What’s the price range for these robots?

Chris Rogers: The primary inspection robots, which we sell to the residential and commercial inspector, range from $2990 to $9990. Three “Ready to Crawl” models are designed with the residential and commercial inspector in mind: the Spider Mite [at] $2990, the MINIBOT [at] $4990 and the Trackbot [at] $5990. All of these systems come with the OCU and are ready to go with the addition of batteries and a battery charger. Additional options and upgrades are also available. The Trackbot is interesting because it is a rugged, but lightweight tracked platform with a convenient carry handle and a wide angle camera. It can climb 45-degree inclines and can rotate in place! This is very useful for tight Crawl Spaces where you don’t have room to do a “3-point turn.” On-Board LED Lights, Recordable DVR’s and Infra-Red Cameras are some of the options available as upgrades.


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