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Publication numberUS20100179787 A2
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/148,439
Publication dateJul 15, 2010
Filing dateApr 17, 2008
Priority dateApr 17, 2007
Also published asUS8145578, US20080262789, US20120209782, US20130311240
Publication number12148439, 148439, US 2010/0179787 A2, US 2010/179787 A2, US 20100179787 A2, US 20100179787A2, US 2010179787 A2, US 2010179787A2, US-A2-20100179787, US-A2-2010179787, US2010/0179787A2, US2010/179787A2, US20100179787 A2, US20100179787A2, US2010179787 A2, US2010179787A2
InventorsChris Pershing, David Carlson
Original AssigneeEagle View Technologies, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Aerial roof estimation system and method
US 20100179787 A2
Abstract
A system that allows the remote measurement of the size, geometry, pitch and orientation of the roof sections of a building and then uses the information to provide an estimate to repair or replace the roof, or to install equipment thereon. The system includes an aerial image file database that shows aerial images of buildings in a designated area according to address. The slope and orientation images are typically oblique perspective views and top plan views of the buildings in the area. The system also includes an image analysis and calibration feature that enables the viewer to closely estimate the size, geometry and orientation of the building's roof sections. The information can then be used to prepare a cost estimate for the repair or replacement of the roof or installation of roof equipment. By simply inputting the potential customer's address, the company is able to determine the size, geometry, pitch and orientation of the roof sections of the building at that address, and then quickly provide an accurate estimate to the customer.
Images(10)
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Claims(36)
1. A system for remotely determining measurements of a roof, comprising:
a computer including an input means, a display means and working memory; and
a roof estimating software program stored in the working memory and operable to:
receive location information of a building in the selected region;
present aerial image files showing the roof sections of said building and showing measurements of the roof; and,
determine, based on said aerial image files, the measurements of the roof including size, geometry, and pitch of the roof sections of said building.
2-3. (canceled)
4. The system as recited in claim 1, further comprising an aerial image file database containing a plurality of aerial images of roofs of buildings, the aerial image file database loaded into said working memory of said computer.
5. The system as recited in claim 1, further comprising an aerial image file database that is located on a second computer that is remote from said computer.
6-7. (canceled)
8. The system as recited in claim 1, further including a network connected to said computer, wherein potential customers are able transmit via said network a request for an estimate to said computer from remote locations.
9. (canceled)
10. The system as recited in claim 1, wherein the roof estimation software program is further operable to produce a roof construction estimate based on the determined measurements.
11-13. (canceled)
14. The system as recited in claim 1, wherein the roof estimation software program is further operable to produce an HVAC installation estimate based on the determined measurements.
15. The system as recited in claim 1, wherein the roof estimation software program is further operable to produce a solar panel installation estimate based on the determined measurements.
16. The system as recited in claim 1, wherein the roof estimation software program is further operable to produce a roof gutter installation estimate based on the determined measurements.
17. The system as recited in claim 1, wherein the roof estimation software program is further operable to produce a repair or replacement estimate based on the determined measurements.
18. A method for determining measurements of a roof, comprising:
selecting a roof estimation system that includes a computer with a roof estimation software program loaded into its working memory, said roof estimation software uses aerial image files of buildings in a selected region and a calibration module that allows the size, geometry, and pitch of a roof section to be determined from said aerial image files;
submitting a request for a measurement of a roof of a building at a known location;
entering the location of a building with a roof that needs a roof measurement;
obtaining aerial image files of said roof of the building at said location;
using said calibration module to determine the size, geometry and pitch of each said roof section; and
outputting a roof estimate report based on the determined measurements.
19. The method of claim 18, wherein submitting the request for the measurement includes receiving the request from at least one of: a building tenant, a building owner, a roofing contractor, a solar panel installation company, a gutter insulation company, a HVAC company, and an insurance company.
20. The method of claim 18, further comprising generating a roof estimate report based on the determined measurements.
21. The method of claim 20 wherein generating the roof estimate report includes generating a line drawing of the roof labeled with at least one of the determined measurements.
22. The method of claim 20 wherein the roof estimate report includes at least one of the aerial images.
23. The method of 18 wherein determining the measurements of the roof includes constructing, based on the aerial images, a three-dimensional geometry of the roof.
24. The method of claim 23 wherein constructing the three-dimensional geometry of the roof includes co-registering, based on a set of reference points, the aerial images.
25. The method of claim 18 wherein determining the measurements of the roof includes determining linear measurements of the sections of said roof.
26. The method of claim 18 wherein determining the measurements of the roof includes identifying ridges and/or valleys of said roof.
27. The method of claim 18 wherein receiving the request for the measurement of the roof includes receiving, from a customer, an address of said building.
28. The method of claim 18 wherein obtaining the aerial images of said roof includes receiving the aerial images from an aerial image database.
29. A method for determining measurements of a roof, comprising:
under control of a roof estimation system:
receiving a request for measuring a roof of a building, the request including location information for the building, the roof including a plurality of sections;
obtaining, based on the location information, aerial images of the roof of the building; and
determining, based on the obtained aerial images, the measurements of the roof, the measurements including an area and a pitch of each of the plurality of sections of the roof.
30. The method of claim 29, further comprising producing a roof estimate report based on the determined measurements of the roof, the roof estimate report including at least one of the aerial images.
31. The method of claim 30 wherein the roof estimate report includes a line drawing of the roof labeled with at least one of the determined measurements.
32. The method of 29 wherein determining the measurements of the roof includes constructing, based on the aerial images, a three-dimensional geometry of the roof.
33. The method of claim 32 wherein constructing the three-dimensional geometry of the roof includes co-registering, based on a set of reference points, the aerial images.
34. The method of claim 29 wherein obtaining the aerial images of the roof includes receiving the aerial images from an aerial image database.
35. A system for remotely determining measurements of a roof, the system comprising:
a computer including a display and working memory; and
a roof estimating software program stored in the working memory and operable to:
receive location information of a building in the selected region;
present on the display aerial images showing the roof sections of said building and showing measurements of the roof;
determine, based on said aerial images, the measurements of the roof including size, geometry, and pitch of the roof sections of said building; and
output a report including the determined measurements and at least one of said aerial images.
36. The system of claim 35 further comprising an aerial image file database that includes the presented aerial images.
37. A method for determining measurements of a roof, comprising:
under control of a roof estimation system:
receiving a request for measuring a roof of a building, the request including location information for the building, the roof including a plurality of sections;
receiving aerial images of the roof of the building from a remote aerial image database, the receiving based on the location information for the building;
determining, based on the received aerial images, the measurements of the roof, the measurements including an area and a pitch of each of the plurality of sections of the roof;
identifying, based on the received aerial images, ridges of the roof; and
outputting a roof estimate report based on the determined measurements of the roof, the roof estimate report including at least one of the aerial images, at least one line drawing of the roof, an indication of the identified ridges of the roof, and at least some of the determined measurements.
38. The method of 37 wherein determining the measurements of the roof includes constructing, based on the aerial images, a three-dimensional geometry of the roof.
39. The method of claim 39 wherein constructing the three-dimensional geometry of the roof includes co-registering, based on a set of reference points, the aerial images.
40. The method of claim 37, wherein receiving the request for measuring the roof includes receiving the request from at least one of: a building tenant, a building owner, a roofing contractor, a solar panel installation company, a gutter insulation company, a HVAC company, and an insurance company.
Description
  • [0001]
    This is a utility patent application which claims benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/925,072 filed on Apr. 17, 2007
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    1. Field of the Invention
  • [0003]
    This invention relates to systems and methods for estimating construction projects, and more particularly, to such systems and methods that allow estimates involving roofs on buildings to be created remotely.
  • [0004]
    2. Description of the Related Art
  • [0005]
    The information provided below is not admitted to be part of the present invention, but is provided solely to assist the understanding of the reader.
  • [0006]
    Homeowners typically ask several roofing contractors to provide written estimates to repair or replace a roof on a house. Heretofore, the homeowners would make an appointment with each roofing contractor to visit the house to determine the style of roof, take measurements, and to inspect the area around the house for access and cleanup. Using this information, the roofing contractor then prepares a written estimate and then timely delivers it to the homeowner. After receiving several estimates from different rooting contractors, the homeowner then selects one.
  • [0007]
    There are factors that impact the roofing contractor's ability to provide a timely written estimate. One factor is the site of the roof contractor's company and the location of the roofing jobs currently underway. Most roof contractors provide roofing services and estimates to building owners over a large geographical area. Larger roof contractor companies hire one or more trained individuals who travel throughout the entire area providing written estimates. With smaller roofing contractors, the owner or a key trained person is appointed to provide estimates. With both types of companies, roofing estimates are normally scheduled for buildings located in the same area on a particular day. If an estimate is needed suddenly at a distant location, the time for travel and the cost of commuting can be prohibitive. If the roofing contractor is a small company, the removal of the owner or key person on a current job site can be time prohibitive.
  • [0008]
    Another factor that may impact the roofing contractor's ability to provide a written estimate is weather and traffic.
  • [0009]
    Recently, solar panels have become popular. In order to install solar panels, the roof's slope, geometrical shape, and size as well as its orientation with respect to the sun all must be determined in order to provide an estimate of the number and type of solar panels required. Unfortunately, not all roofs on a building are proper size, geometrical shape, or orientation for use with solar panels.
  • [0010]
    What is needed is a system that allows a roof to be quickly and easily measured and that does not require the estimator to physically travel to the building to take measurements. Such measurements can then be used to prepare an estimate to repair or replace the roof or install equipment thereon.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0011]
    These and other objects are met by the system and method disclosed herein that allows a company that needs the sizes, dimensions, slopes and orientations of the roof sections on a building in order to provide a written estimate. The system includes the use of a roof estimating software program and an location-linked, image file database. During use, the physical address or location information of the building is inputted into the program which then presents aerial images of roof sections on the building at the specific address location. An overhead aircraft, a balloon, or satellite may produce the aerial images. An image analysis and calibration is then performed either manually or via a software program that determines the geometry, the slopes, the pitch angles, and the outside dimensions of the roof sections. The images may also include the land surrounding the roof sections and building which the estimating company can use to factor in additional access or clean-up costs.
  • [0012]
    In the first embodiment of the system, the roof company is contacted by a potential customer requesting an estimate for repair or replacement of a roof on their building. The roof company uses a local computer with an estimating software program loaded into its working memory to access an image file database located on the computer or on a remote server connected via a wide area network to the local computer. The image file database contains image files of various buildings in the roof companies service area. When a request for an estimate is received from a potential customer, the roof company enters the customer's address into the software program and aerial images of the building are then presented to the roof company. The roof company then manually measures or uses a roof estimation software program to determine the slopes, dimensions, and other relevant geometric information of the roof sections on the buildings. From these determinations, the overall shape, slopes and square footage of the roof sections are determined and a report is produced. After the report has been prepared, the images are reviewed again for special access and cleanup tasks which can be added to the final estimate before transmission to the potential customer.
  • [0013]
    In another embodiment, the roof estimate software program and image file database are both stored on one or more a remote computers and accessed by the roof company via a wide area network. The roof company uses an assigned user name and password to log onto the website and accessed the computer. After logging on, the roof company logs then submits the new customer's address, other relevant job related information, and a request for a report from the roof estimation service. An estimation service associated with the website uses the address information to obtain the images of the roof sections on the building(s) and uses the roof estimation software program and calibration module to determine the relevant geometry, pitch angles, dimensions, and surface areas of the building's roof. The service then produces and sends a report to the roof company. The company then uses the report to prepare a final estimate that is then delivered to the potential customer.
  • [0014]
    In another embodiment of the system, a roof estimating website is created designed to receive requests for roof estimates directly from potential customers in a region. The estimation service that owns and operates the website is associated with various roof companies that provide roof-related services in the region serviced by the website. When a potential customer contacts the website and requests an estimate for a roof repair, replacement or installation of equipment, the potential's customer's name, address, and contact information is first submitted on the website. The estimation service representative, enters the address of the building into the roof estimation software program. The aerial images of the buildings are then obtained and analyzed by the service representative to extract the relevant geometric information about the structures. A report containing the geometric information obtained from the aerial images and other relevant project related information supplied by the potential customer are transmitted to roof companies associated with the estimation service. The roof company reviews the information then prepares an estimate which then can be uploaded to the roof estimating website server which then forwards the estimate to the potential customer, or sent from the roof company directly via email, fax or mail to the potential customer.
  • [0015]
    In another embodiment, a service associated with the roof estimate website uses the image file database and roof estimate software to preemptively calculate and store the dimensions, areas, pitch angles, and other relevant geometric information about the buildings and structures located within a geographic region. This pre-calculated information can then be used by any of the previously mentioned embodiments to accelerate the process of obtaining roof estimates within that geographic region.
  • [0016]
    It should be understood, that the system and method described herein may be used by any individual or company that would find the calculation of the size, geometry, pitch and orientation of the roof of a building from aerial images of the building useful. Such companies may include roofing companies, solar panel installers, roof gutter installers, awning companies, HVAC contractors, general contractors and insurance companies.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0017]
    FIG. 1 is an illustration showing the system and method being used by a new customer requesting a roof estimate from a roof contractor who uses his or her computer to access a local or remote image database or from a roof contractor who contacts a remote aerial image or estimate provider and then provides a written estimate to the customer.
  • [0018]
    FIG. 2 is an illustration showing the system and method being used by a new customer requesting roof estimates from a plurality of roof contractors which are part of a referral service provided by a remote aerial image or estimate provider that transmits images or an intermediate report to all of the roof contractors who then individually prepare and transmit an estimate to the customer.
  • [0019]
    FIG. 3 is an illustration showing the top and perspective view of a house for a particular address.
  • [0020]
    FIG. 4 is an aerial image of the home shown in FIG. 3 showing the areas and structures around the home.
  • [0021]
    FIGS. 5A-F are consecutive pages from a preliminary or final report sent to a potential customer prepared by the roofing company.
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)
  • [0022]
    Referring to the accompanying Figs, there is described a system 10 and method that allows a roof company 70 to provide a final estimate 102 to a potential customer 90 to install equipment or to repair or replace the roof on a building 92 using aerial images of the building 92. The system 10 includes an estimating software program 50 designed to receive an address for the building 92. The software program 50 is linked to an aerial image file database 52 that contains aerial images files 54 of various building 92 in a region. The aerial image files 54 may be taken any available means, such as an aircraft, balloon, a satellite, etc. As shown in FIG. 3, the image files 54 typically include at least one a top plan view 65 and a perspective view 66 of the building 92. The image files 54 may also include a wide angle image file 67 showing the building 92 and the surrounding areas 93 around the building 92. In one embodiment, an image analysis and calibration module 52 is linked to the software program 50 that enables the roof company 70 to closely estimate the dimensions and slopes of the roofs of the buildings 92 shown in the views 65, 66. By simply inputting the customer's address into the software program 50, the roof company 70 is able view the customer's roof from the aerial image files 54 using a remote computer 72, determine the dimensions and slopes of the roof sections that make up the roof, and prepare a preliminary report 101 which is then used to prepare a final estimate 102 that is then delivered to the potential customer 90.
  • [0023]
    FIG. 1 is an illustration showing the system 10 used by a potential customer 90 requesting a roof estimate from a roof company 70 that uses the system 10 described above. The potential customer 90 may be the building tenant, owner or insurance company. The roof company 70 uses a computer 72 which may connect to a wide area network 60. The customer 90 contacts the roof company 70 via his or her computer 91 and the wide area network 60 or by a telecommunication network 96, and requests a roof estimate 100 for his building 92 located at a public address 93. (i.e. 23 W. 3rd St). The roof company 70 then processes the request 100 which leads to a final estimate 102 being delivered to the potential customer's computer 91 or via email, fax or postal service to the potential customer 90.
  • [0024]
    There are several different ways the system 10 can be setup. FIG. 1 shows a first embodiment of the system 10 where the roof company 70 operates a remote computer 72 with a display 74 and a keyboard 75 or similar input means. A roof estimating software program 50 is loaded into the working memory 73 of the remote computer 72. The software program 50 is able to retrieve aerial images of buildings from the database 52 containing aerial images files 54 of buildings located in the region served by the roof company 70. In the first embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the remote computer 72 is linked or connected to a database 52 containing aerial images files 54 of the buildings. The software program 50 includes a calibration module 56 that enables the roof company 70 to determine the angles and dimensions of various roof sections shown in the images files 54. After the angles and dimensions are determined, the combined square footage of the building 92 can be determined which is then used to create a preliminary report 101. The roof company 70 then reviews the wide angle image file 67 (see FIG. 4) to determine if the building 92 has special access and clean up factors that may impact the final estimate 102. Once the preliminary report 101 or the final estimate 102 is prepared by the roof company 70, one or both can be transmitted to the customer 90 via the wide area network 60, the telecommunication network 96, or by postal service.
  • [0025]
    Also shown in FIG. 1 is an alternative setup of the system 10 wherein a preliminary report 101 is prepared by a separate roof estimating entity 105 which is then forwarded to the roof company 70 who then prepares the final estimate 102 and sends it to the customer 90. The entity 105 includes a computer 106 with a roof estimating software program 50′ loaded into the working memory 107. Like the software program 50 loaded into the roof contractor's computer 72 in the previous embodiment the software program 50′ is also able to retrieve aerial images of houses from a database 52′ containing aerial images files 54′ of houses located in the region served by the roof company 70. An optional calibration module 56′ may be provided which enables the entity 105 to determine the angles and linear dimensions of various roof sections on the house 92.
  • [0026]
    When the system 10 is setup to include the estimating entity 105, the customer contacts the roofing company 70. The roof company 70 then contacts the estimating entity 105 and forwards the address of the building 92 thereto. The estimating entity 105 then prepares the preliminary report 101 that is transmitted to the roof company 70. The roof company 70 then prepares the final report 102 and sends it to the customer 90.
  • [0027]
    FIG. 2 shows a third embodiment of the system 10 where the customer 90 contacts a roof estimating entity 130 who receives a request 100 from the customer 90 via the wide area network 60 or telecommunication network 96. The roof estimating entity 130 prepares a preliminary report 101 which is then transmitted to various roof companies 70, 70′, 70″ associated with the entity 130. Accompanying the preliminary report 101 may be the name and contact telephone number(s) or email address of the customer 90. Each roof company 70, 70′, 70″ reviews the preliminary report 101 and any associated images sent therewith and then prepares a final estimate 102, 102′, 102″. The final estimate 102, 102′, 102″ is then mailed, emailed or faxed to the customer 90 or back to the estimating entity 130. The estimating entity 130 then sends the final estimate 102, 102′, 102″ to the customer 90. In this embodiment, the estimating entity 130 includes a computer 135 in which the roof estimating software program 50″ is loaded into its working memory 136 loaded and linked to the aerial image database 52″ containing image files 54″. An optional calibration module 56″ may be loaded into the working memory 136 of the computer 135.
  • [0028]
    FIGS. 5A-5F are individual pages that make up a representative report. In FIG. 5A, a cover page 103 that lists the address of the building and an overhead aerial image of the building. In FIG. 5B, a second page 104 of the report is shown that shows wide overhead perspective view of the building at the address with the surrounding areas more clearly shown. FIG. 5C is the third page 105 of the report which shows a line drawing of the building showing ridge and valley lines, dimensions and a compass indicator. FIG. 5D is an illustration of the fourth page 106 of the report showing the pitch angle of each roof section along with a compass indicator. FIG. 5E is an illustration of the fifth page 107 of the report showing the square footage of each roof section along with the total square foot area value. FIG. 5F is an illustration of a sixth page 108 of the report showing an overall, aerial line drawing of the building where notes or written comments may be written.
  • [0029]
    Using the above system, a detailed description of how the system is used is now provided.
  • [0030]
    First, a property of interest is identified by a potential customer of the service. The customer contacts the service with the location of the property. Typically, this will be a street address. The service then uses a geo-coding provider to translate the location information (such as a street address) into a set of coordinates that can be used to query an aerial or satellite image database. Typically, the geo-coding provider will be used to translate the customer supplied street address into a set of longitude-latitude coordinates.
  • [0031]
    Next, the longitude-latitude coordinates of the property are then used to query an aerial and/or satellite imagery database in order to retrieve one or more images of the property of interest. It is important to note that flat roofs only require a single image of the property. Roofs containing one or more pitched sections typically require two or more photographs in order to identify and measure all relevant sections and features of the roof.
  • [0032]
    Once the images of the roof section of the building are obtained, at least one of the images needs to be calibrated. During calibration, the distance in pixels between two points on the image is converted into a physical length. This calibration information is typically presented as a scale marker on the image itself, or as additional information supplied by the image database provider along with the requested image.
  • [0033]
    The image(s) and calibration information returned by the imagery database is entered or imported into the service's measurement software.
  • [0034]
    A set of reference points are identified in each of the images. The service's measurement software then uses these reference points and some proprietary algorithms to co-register the images and reconstruct the three dimensional geometry of the object identified by the reference points. There are a variety of photo-grammetric algorithms that can be utilized to perform this reconstruction. One such algorithm used by the service uses photographs taken from two or more view points to ‘trangulate’ points of interest on the object in 3D space. This triangulation can be visualized as a process of projecting a line originating from the location of the photograph's observation point that passes through a particular reference point in the image. The intersection of these projected lines from the set of observation points to a particular reference point identifies the location of that point in 3D space. Repeating the process for all such reference points allows the software to build a 3D model of the structure.
  • [0035]
    The optimal choice of reconstruction algorithm depends on a number of factors such as the spatial relationships between the photographs, the number and locations of the reference points, and any assumptions that are made about the geometry and symmetry of the object being reconstructed. Several such algorithms are described in-detail in textbooks, trade journals, and academic publications.
  • [0036]
    Once the reconstruction of the building is complete, the results are reviewed for completeness and correctness. If necessary, a user of the service's software will make corrections to the reconstructed model.
  • [0037]
    Information from the reconstructed model is used to generate a report containing information relevant to the customer. If the report is meant for delivery to a roofing company, the information in the report may include total square footage, square footage and pitch of each section of roof, linear measurements of all roof segments, identification and measurement of ridges and valleys, and different elevation views rendered from the 3D model (top, side, front, etc).
  • [0038]
    Using the above description, a method for estimating the size and the repair or replacement costs of a roof comprising the following steps:
  • [0039]
    a. selecting a roof estimation system that includes a computer with a roof estimation software program loaded into its working memory, said roof estimation software uses aerial image files of buildings in a selected region and a calibration module that allows the size, geometry, and orientation of a roof section to be determined from said aerial image files;
  • [0040]
    b. submitting a request for a measurement of a roof of a building at a known location;
  • [0041]
    c. submitting the location information of a building with a roof that needs a size determination, a repair estimate, or replacement estimate;
  • [0042]
    d. entering the location information of said building and obtaining aerial image files of one or more roof sections used on a roof; and,
  • [0043]
    e. using said calibration module to determine the size, geometry and pitch of each said roof section.
  • [0044]
    In the above method, the entity requesting the measurement is the building tenant, the building owner, or the insurance request.
  • [0045]
    In compliance with the statute, the invention described herein has been described in language more or less specific as to structural features. It should be understood however, that the invention is not limited to the specific features shown, since the means and construction shown, is comprised only of the preferred embodiments for putting the invention into effect. The invention is therefore claimed in any of its forms or modifications within the legitimate and valid scope of the amended claims, appropriately interpreted in accordance with the doctrine of equivalents.
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Classifications
U.S. Classification702/156
International ClassificationG01B13/20
Cooperative ClassificationG06Q30/0206, G06Q10/00, G06Q30/0283, G06Q50/16, G06Q40/08
European ClassificationG06Q30/0283, G06Q40/08, G06Q50/16, G06Q10/00
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