In January 2019, the government published a paper following a detailed consultation. In this it was announced that it will soon be a legal requirement for all owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register their drone with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and complete an online safety test.
For better or worse the legislation around using drones is becoming more restrictive which will leave an opening for other methods of conducting roof inspections and low level aerial photography. This brings us neatly on to the Spiderbeam fiberglass telescopic pole.
After seeing a chartered surveyor discussing using the Spiderbeam with a GoPro attachment I decided to reach out to see if I could test out this method of capturing media for myself.
Spiderbeam was founded in 2000 with a focus around creating high quality lightweight antennas. Spiderbeam have made its portable antenna designs open source by publishing a detailed construction guides to allow users to build their own Spiderbeam from scratch.
This clearly sets the Spiderbeam apart with its roots stemming as a passion project to create an efficient antenna for portable use. Although the company’s prime focus is on antennas, the fiberglass poles also have the potential to be an excellent way to carry out high level inspections. In this review I will be testing out the Spiderbeam 12m fiberglass pole with the view of using it for roof and gutter inspections.
Although it is the 12m pole, the actual length is less as the thin upper segments are removed to allow for the camera adapter to be fitted. According to the Spiderbeam website this reduces the length to 7m although the measurement I took reached around 8.7m so they might be underselling slightly.
The Spiderbeam fiberglass pole kit I received came with the following:
- Spiderbeam 12m fiberglass pole HD
- Clamp set
- Camera adapter mount with hex key
The Spiderbeam pole contains 9 segments which are held in place by two rubber end caps.
The camera mount adapter allows for allot of flexibility to attach cameras, action cameras and gimbals. I tested the pole out with a Vibe action camera as well as a DJI Mobile 2 with an iPhone x.
The camera adapter mount I have is slightly different to the one advertised on the website. It is affixed to the telescopic pole with a clamp which is tightened via a flathead screwdriver. I think the thumb turn adapter advertised on Spiderbeams website would have been slightly easier to use and would save the need to carry about a screwdriver.
The adapter utilises a separate threaded screw which allows you to attach compatible cameras. To attach new devices you need to use an extended hex key which you place through the back end of the adapter to hold and tighten the screw. Once you have your camera attached to the adapter you will attach the adapter to the telescopic pole.
The process of attaching the camera to the adapter and adapter to the telescopic pole is quick. Some action cameras come with clamps which allow the camera to be fixed to the likes of bicycle handlebars, this same clamp works perfectly with the telescopic pole and allows the camera to be pointed at a slight downwards angle.
The majority of the time testing out this pole I used the DJI Mobile 2 with my iPhone X. This gave me the option of recording super smooth 4K video content at 60 fps, I opted for the 1080p setting which you can see from the overview video. My only advice when recording video is that movements and turning motions might feel slow from ground level but they show as rather swift movements when you look back on the recordings. Taking slow deliberate movements are key so that you get quality content rather than fast jerky camera movements.
Although there is a bit of guesswork when using a gimbal and phone, I found the shots to be fine and generally captured what I was looking for. As the pole is really quick to retract and extend I could check the clip on my phone and extend it back up if I didn’t exactly catch what I was looking for.
Smart cameras like the Kodak SL25 or Sony QX100 could be the way to go to allow you to use your smart phone as a viewing screen from ground level.
With the DJI Mobile 2 you can adjust the angle in all directions, for example I was able to point it down to get a good inspection of some gutters. Fixed cameras do not have this luxury.
Testing the Pole
After trying to survey a chimney I found that I could not quite reach the height that I required. The 8.7m reach allowed me to inspect most of the roof but was not quite enough to reach ridge level. I think a 10-12m reach is really the ideal length for domestic applications.
The pole was absolutely fine to use without assistance. The rubber end cap gave the pole a good grip to the floor and I placed it against my foot to provide stability, from this position I was able to guide the camera to get smooth panning shots with ease. This is not a bit of kit that you want to be walking around at full stretch, so it’s a case of taking it down and moving to the next point of interest before extending the pole again.
The pole is not too heavy if you are just taking it from the car to a property but it can become a little cumbersome if you need to walk any sort of distance. Spiderbeam would benefit from offering more accessories like a travel bag / case for those who might need to walk a short distance with the pole.
Another great use was obtaining shot of areas that might be too dangerous to walk on. I can see a telescopic pole being the perfect companion for surveyors who need a closer look at a wall head of a historic building from ground level or getting shots of a fire damaged building like the picture taken below.
After reviewing the footage from another roof survey I discovered a broken tile which I did not notice from ground level. This roof repair can now be carried out before it turns into a leak which could cause significant damage to the property.
Rain can also be a big factor that can stop the use of a drone. However with a waterproof action camera and the telescopic pole, taking shots in light rain will not be a major issue. I wouldn’t advise to use this in high winds however as there would probably be too much sway to get any worthwhile shots.
The Spiderbeam fiberglass telescopic pole is the perfect addition for a great deal of domestic applications. From inspecting gutters and solar panels right through to getting a close up view of a roofing defect this pole will be a handy companion for any surveyor. Also for estate agents looking to get that perfect shot to show off a property, this is a very inexpensive way of doing so.
The Spiderbeam is extremely simple to use and can be easily deployed by a single person. The pole is very cheap and if you already have the likes of a GoPro of a gimbal then the Spiderbeam pole is a no brainer. The heavy duty fiberglass pole feels sturdy and with this you get a sense of reliability.
For surveying the gutter to mid level of a standard two storey dwellling the telescopic pole is perfect, however the length does not quite cut it for ridge and chimney level inspections.
Will this product make the use of drones redundant? No, but it can however be a great addition when considering how to inspect certain difficult to reach areas.