I found one of the best uses for a drone — and it’s not what you think

DJI Mavic Mini 2
(Image credit: Future)

I’ve flown many of the best drones, having a grand time taking them up hundreds of feet and capturing sweeping panoramas of New York City, farms in Upstate New York and more. It’s remarkable how well they can take stunning photos and videos and how easy they are to fly. Anyone who wants to get a new view of the world should check them out.  

But I’ve found a far more mundane, but highly practical use for drones: checking my gutters for leaves.

Gutter filled with leaves

Are your gutters filled with leaves? A drone can help you find out. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Making sure your gutters are clean of leaves and other debris is an important task. If water can’t flow down your gutters, it can back up and either cascade over the top — which can lead to dangerous ice patches — or flow into your house, causing thousands of dollars in damage. 

But, unless you live in a ranch house, it’s often hard to get at your gutters to see if they’re clogged. 

For example, the majority of the gutters on my house are atop the second story. In order for me to inspect them, I’d need a 40-foot ladder to get up there and take a look. Even if my wife thought it was an OK idea — which she doesn’t — the idea of climbing up a two-story ladder sounds like a recipe for disaster. One alternative is to hire a professional to inspect and clean them out each year, which can cost you a few hundred dollars each visit. 

Here’s where one of the best drones can save you money and let you have a little fun in the process. 

You don’t need anything fancy — you might be able to get away with one of the best cheap drones, though one with a higher resolution and a more steady platform will make things easier. 

A perfect drone for this task is the DJI Mini SE ($299 at Amazon); it’s very small, light enough so you don’t have to register it, and it comes with a 2.7K camera on a 3-axis gimbal. Importantly, you can rotate its camera to point directly downward, so you can get right over top of your gutters to see what’s what. And, its battery gives you up to 30 minutes of flight time, so you've have plenty of juice even if you own a McMansion. (I reviewed the DJI Mini 2, which is identical save for a 4K camera.)

At my house, I have two things working in my favor. The first is that I have gutter guards, which can help keep out leaves while still allowing water through. The second is that there aren’t any trees overhanging my roof, so there’s less of a chance that leaves will fall on top of my roof. Still, that doesn't mean I don't give the gutters a once-over once in a while.

If, during the winter, you saw icicles forming from the sides of your gutters, or notice any discoloration on the side of your house nearest the gutters, it could be a sign that they’re clogged and need to be cleaned out. Even if you didn’t, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your gutters an annual inspection. Using a drone to check them out is a fun — and safer way — of doing it yourself.

Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.

  • USAFRet
    And I used mine inspect the top of my chimney.

    40 yrs old, rusting, change it before it rusts through.