On September 19th, 2019, engineers at the University of Michigan successfully showcased an autonomous drone with a nail gun attachment tack a shingle onto a mock-up roof.
As licensed small unmanned aircraft system, aka drone, enthusiasts we were excited to witness this advancement in our industry! In the video the mock up is in a controlled environment and the goal is simple. Get the drone to nail a shingle into place. Nothing more. Nothing less. This goal is accomplished in under one minute.
Today the video has over one-hundred-ninety-thousand views, probably mostly from people in the construction industry worried about losing their jobs; however, the practicality of this great achievement falls short on many fronts. The most obvious issue being the time it took to nail a single shingle! It seemed like an eternity watching the drone nail down one shingle. An experienced roofer could do 10 times the amount of work the drone was capable of doing! The next item was the fact that the drone was only nailing the shingle. It was not moving it into place or cutting it to size. We would have to assume that someone or something would have to do those chores for this drone to do its job. And lastly, the drone is in a controlled environment, it did not take into account the weather, or the dozens of other factors that make roofing and construction so hectic. What happens when the drone runs out of nails? Who or what is placing the materials into place? What if it starts to rain in the middle of the job? Is the drone being monitored by a licensed sUAS pilot in case of malfunctions or improper install? How many drones can we expect at a job site to finish the project in a timely manner? All these questions and many more need to be considered before we should take drones in roofing seriously. With that we say, don’t worry, drones are at least 10-20 years from taking an active role building anything. For now they will have to stick with roles in supervision, planning, and photography. See the video below.