In little less than three years the number of professional drone pilots with CAA permissions has grown significantly. This new wave of qualified pilots (who simply didn’t exist five years ago) is leading the way in which drones can be used to save time and improve efficiency.

Drone Pilots in the UK Drone Safe Register

With more and more businesses and sectors realising the benefits of drones, 2017 is expected to see more drone hire than ever.  DSR discusses some of the UK’s sectors that are embracing drones:

Film / TV

We are not using it as a drone. That is completely the wrong terminology to use to describe it. We see it as a flying camera.

Thomas Hannen, Global Video Unit, BBC World Service

Switch on the TV or go to the cinema and there’s a good chance you’ll see some amazing drone shots. More and more drones are being used by filmmakers, production companies and broadcasters to capture breathtaking aerial shots to wow their viewers.

Drones are fast becoming an essential tool of the professional filmmaker’s kit. They enable you to get closer than a helicopter, higher than a crane, and as steady as a dolly. Drones are able to lift heavy camera equipment into the air for spectacular aerial filming and shoot rock-steady shots in the most unforgiving of environments.

Whether it be for news gathering, sports coverage or wildlife filming drone technology is rapidly evolving and changing the way we capture the world around us.

The BBC’s Planet Earth II, the most watched wildlife series in 15 years, credits some of its success in technology advancements.

“Drones were important,” Executive Producer Mike Gunton revealed during a recent press tour. “I think one of the differentiators between the original Planet Earth series and the latest series is the technology. What we did with this series is we took that technology and miniaturized it and effectively put it in the hands of the cameramen so they could take the camera off the tripod. And what that has allowed us to do, rather than observe, is to actually experience the lives of the animals. So we are with them.”

Drones provided a world of aerial possibilities throughout the series, including the marine iguanas and racer snake sequence, river dolphins in the Amazon and also in the jungles of Costa Rica :

Drones in the Jungle

Property Marketing

One of the biggest growths of drone usage in the UK has been seen in the property sector. Drones are increasingly being used by estate agents as a cheaper alternative to helicopter hire to capture amazing aerial images. There is no doubt that having a bird’s eye perspective of a property is helping to drive property sales.

More and more estate agents are turning to drones to capture the attention of home buyers. Carter Jonas, Strutt & Parker, Knight Frank, Taylor Wimpey, British Land PLC, Evander and Berkeley Homes are just some of the property sector employers of drone tech.

UK Drone Photography of Property

Emergency Services

In the UK, drones are already being used by the police, fire services and search and rescue in emergency situations.

Drones offer front line police officers a different perspective on policing.  There are currently 14 police forces in England and Wales using drones. South Wales Police are one of the latest forces to take advantage of the new technology.  Cumbria Police introduced drones in 2015:

UK police forces are using drones to help them control protests, investigate burglaries and carry out sieges.  Drones will be adopted by UK police forces after a number of senior police officials concluded that they were an efficient alternative to helicopters, police dogs, and even officers themselves.

Until now, UK police forces have not used drones except in a small number of trials. Over 25% of the 43 police forces in England and Wales are evaluating whether they should start using drones in their operations.

Steve Barry, the National Police Chief’s Council lead on drones, told The Times that members of the public should expect to see more police-controlled drones flying around the country.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service has become the UK’s first force to have access to drone support around the clock.  A team of trained operators have permission to fly the unmanned aircraft up to 400ft (122m) above ground and 500m (1,640ft) away from the point it is being controlled.  The machine is already equipped with an infrared camera that can see in the dark.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is looking into how the use of drones to improve search and rescue operations.

Councils

Local councils, as reported by The Telegraph, have started using drones to assess planning applications for building alterations and new buildings.  In total 12 councils had either purchased or hired drones and used them for planning, surveying dangerous buildings and monitoring coastal erosion.

Construction

The use of drones in the UK’s construction industry has been a fairly recent phenomenon in comparison to the US. However the industry here is starting to embrace this new technology.

The construction industry is deploying drone technology for a variety of purposes including real time visual mapping, topographical surveys, interactive 3D models, visualisations and creating point clouds.  In many instances drones are making the job safer and more cost effective than traditional surveying / inspection methods.

According to a survey carried out by DronesDirect, one of the UK’s leading drone retailers, 12% of construction firms are now using drone technology.  The report, which is based on a survey of 3,000 drone users and data from thousands of sales of drones, states that trade (construction/plumbing) businesses have adopted drones faster than any other industry.  Drones are perfectly suited to aerial inspections. Bridges, listed buildings, construction sites, solar farms, wind turbines all require drone inspections!

Energy Sector

The UK’s energy sectors including solar, wind, oil and gas already heavily rely on drone inspections to maintain safety standards and effectively power the nation.  Drones are deployed to inspect for damage on wind turbine blades, solar panels and offshore oil and gas structures.  Thermal cameras can be attached to a drone to undertake visual inspections to detect conductor hot spots or broken insulators.

DSR members, CHPV Offshore Energy Media Services specialise in offshore drone work.  CHPV have been photographing and filming impressive feats of engineering and industry on land, sea and air, for over 50 years. Their work has taken them all over the world, from the harsh waters of the North Sea to the hot sands of Dubai.  Take a look at their video taster to give you an idea of their impressive offshore drone work portfolio.

Drones are also contributing to safety and efficiency of overhead power-line maintenance.  Qualified, insured professionals are now using drones to conduct safety inspections of some of the UK’s energy infrastructures which would otherwise have to be turned off to allow human inspections thereby improving safety, saving time and reducing costs for customers paying for energy.

Agriculture

Drones are beginning to revolutionise farming in the UK.  It’s changing from something that is happening on the ground to something that is happening in the sky.  Drones are part of an agricultural revolution called precision farming.  Farmers can deploy drones for all manner of possibilities such as to increase yields and reduce fertiliser/pesticide usage through targeted application based on flight data.    Drones can be used to identify weed types, disease pressures, plant stress, crop damage, nitrogen requirements and most importantly yield potential.

Environmental

The Environment Agency use drone technology to capture data to monitor areas of potential flood risks.
A recent study in the South East of England has emphasised the growing benefit of drones in the environmental industry – when the Environment Agency needed to calculate the amount of shingle on a large beach and bring it back to the desired profile, they chose to use the eBee drone from senseFly to maximise efficiency.

The results of the study were a real success for the industry; the entire project (from planning stages to product delivery) was completed in just 10 days, and the UK Environment Agency more than halved their survey costs by using the eBee. This enabled the team to deposit the appropriate amount of shingle where needed and ultimately avoid further erosion and damage to coastal infrastructure.

The use of environmental aerial surveys from drones has proved effective in mapping flood risk for the Environment Agency at the River Mole in Surrey.  The deployment of drones are an ideal solution when data is required from hard to reach areas such as, in this case, a river channel.

Drones bring a whole new meaning to the possibilities of capturing data & imagery. Elevation modelling for example is a really powerful application. The data captured by using a UAV mounted camera can produce 3D models that make a really engaging tool for communicating information about the landscape.

In conclusion, it is clear that drones have become accepted practise in almost all sectors of the UK’s economy.  The above examples are a sample of how drones are positively impacting the way we do business in the UK. It shows that the potential for uses of drones in the UK are vast; more are being developed all the time.

Unlocking the UK’s high tech economy: Safe use of drones in the UK

No matter what the aerial job entails; if it is a commercial job being carried out by a professional pilot, all drone operators must obtain annual permission from the CAA. It’s the law. This is known as the PFCO.

When hiring a drone operator it is important to ensure that you hire a drone pilot that is safe and legal. All DSR members have been checked for valid CAA permissions and correct operating insurances.

The Government believes the safe and responsible use of drones can bring significant benefits to the UK, but if misused, can pose challenges and risks and dangers. The Government’s vision is for a society and economy in the UK where drones are safely and properly used in ways that improve the delivery of public and commercial services, where all leisure drone users are aware of the rules and adhere to them, and where flourishing drone service businesses are contributing to the UK economy, creating jobs and encouraging the development of important new skills in the UK.

Last month the Government launched a consultation on proposed new commercial drone regulation. The consultation which will run until the 15th March 2017 invites anybody to provide their views on a range of drone related considerations.