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Jonathan Zeissler, owner of Illuminate Home Inspections, uses a drone in his business.

EVANSDALE | Jonathan Zeissler thought it odd that a house could pass an inspection, even if it had a bad roof.

“I know first-hand,” he said. “I’ve had the paid inspector come out and didn’t inspect my roof because it was too tall. I thought that was kind of a flaw in the system.”

It also occurred to him that it was a business opportunity.

So, over the summer, he launched Illuminate Inspections LLC, which would include roof evaluations. Zeissler operates the business out of his home.

He purchased a Phantom 3 drone from China-based manufacturer DJI and worked it into his inspection regimen.

Zeissler doesn’t worry about negotiating tricky angles, climbing long ladders or balancing himself on quirky roofs.

He just sends the drone up top to have a look.

“It’s fully functioning,” Zeissler said. “I can up, down, spin and side-to-side. The remote control gives me total access to its movement.”

For any inspection, Zeissler sends the four-prop drone whirring up to the roof, take photos and “do a proper inspection,” he said. “And, of course, we offer some nice pictures for the buyer and homeowners. A lot of people like to get an aerial photograph of their house. It’s not really needed, but it’s nice to have.

Zeissler said it wasn’t tough to learn how to control Quadcoptor drone, which carries a high-definition camera under its belly.

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“For me it wasn’t too bad; in the past, I’ve been a gamer, so I’m familiar with remote controls,” he said, laughing. “The experience paid off, I guess you could say.”

The timing for taking off on his own business venture certainly was right: Zeissler had been laid off from his position at John Deere’s Tractor Cab Assembly operation in April after having been on the job for two years.

And, Zeissler had been a business owner before – he owned Hearth Pro, a Waterloo-based fireplace and biomass stove and furnace retailer before selling the company six years ago.

“It was kind of a blessing,” he said, referring to his layoff at Deere. “I decided home inspection was a good fit for my background.”

The drone system cost about $1,500, Zeissler said, noting the investment wasn’t just worth it for his business; it justifies it.

“The personal experience of having a home inspector of inspecting a home I was buying, not being able to get a report on the roof was the no. 1 driver, once I decided to go into business for myself as a home inspector,” he said. “How can I not do that for my clients? That’s when I investigated the costs and how user-friendly it would be. This would work perfectly and take care of that problem.”

Drone usage is not exactly revolutionary in home inspections, but it’s probably a rarity in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area, Zeissler said.

And, it likely will be standard operating procedure in the future, he said.

“As far as I know we’re the only ones in this area (with a drone),” he said. “We’re certainly not the first, but I think it’s something that does catch on, as the service is more fulfilled in doing the inspections. Customers are going to want that roof inspections -- even (from) the ones that can’t get up there. As they become more aware that this technology is being used, we’ll see it more.”

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