Drone-based aerial surveys for chartered surveyors
Practical applications of drone technology
We work regularly with a number of chartered surveyors across the regions. Increasingly surveyors are recognising the benefits that drone technology can offer. These benefits include: a much reduced health and safety risk.: there are no people, plants or other obstructions up in the air. Commercially developed drones have in-built safety features including battery power monitoring, return to home functionality in the event of a loss of GPS signal and geo-fencing (preventing a drone from flying in 'no-fly' zones. If operated correctly, the drone knows the location from where it took off and if the battery runs low, it ignores all external commands and returns home; equally, a switch on the control panel achieves the same function.
Minimal disruption: the pilot only requires a clear line of sight of where the drone is flying and can operate it from a distance of up to 400ft up and 500m out (yes the units of measurement are different). Therefore, unlike a cherry picker, scaffolding or tower that may obstruct an entrance or occupy valuable parking spaces, a safety zone can be established away from the building or structure.
Better quality images: a drone-mounted camera takes photographs at predetermined intervals (ranging from one to 30 seconds) together with continuous film footage. The images are very high resolution, enabling the viewer to zoom in and see a high level of detail. The images can also be issued electronically within a few hours of the survey, or if required, downloaded onto a USB while still on site.
Reduced survey time: compared to cherry pickers or scaffolding, a drone can be set up and ready to fly in approximately 20 minutes. The usual flight operation is 30 minutes and covers a very large area. Because it flies in different directions over the target building, images are obtained from various angles.
Environmentally friendly: because they are powered by rechargeable batteries, drones do not generate any fumes. The only potential disturbance is the sound of the rotors.
Access: in some circumstances it may not be physically possible to use a cherry picker or scaffolding to reach a roof or high-level elevation due to access or weight constraints, which could result in very high costs. Not only are the costs of using a drone relatively low, but they are easily transported in a case that is easily accommodated on public transport, and need only an area of about 4m x 4m to be set up.
Specific benefits of drones for surveyors
During the survey, the surveyor can be given a remote monitor allowing a live feed of the drone’s view of the building or structure. The monitor works over the internet via a YouTube link, allowing surveyors to remain off-site or indoors. Clients and occupiers can also view the live link at the same time, if required.
Surveyors can direct the flight path or request more detail or time in the event of unforeseen elements that are only visible once the drone is in the air.
Of course there are a couple of drawbacks to using a drone to survey. These are:
It's not advisable to fly a drone in strong or gusting winds. Despite their GPS technology, they can be pushed off course and if they strike a tree or building, you could be looking at a replacement or potentially worse.
Drones cannot fly in heavy rain, impacting the sophisticated electronics, the GPS signal and image quality.
Obviously drones should not be flown in severe weather especially thundestorms (no matter what the temptation), where no electrical items should be used especially outdoors and where individuals could be put at risk.
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