For what started out as a niche plaything for flight enthusiasts, the penetration of drones into the commercial world is accelerating at rapid pace.
It’s not just the headline-grabbing Amazon delivery proposal – it’s everything from farming, utilities and insurance to the emergency services, engineering and even acting as a temporary mobile phone mast.
But one area where they are starting to make real inroads, and where the cost effectiveness and accessibility they bring is urgent, is in construction and building, in particular, council-owned buildings.
The anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy has just passed but the work to make tower blocks across the country safe, and avoid a repeat, is still to be completed. This is despite the fact there is a real urgency to inspect the buildings, understand the risk and map out a remediation plan for each one.
It’s not surprising that we find ourselves in this situation. It is a pretty monumental undertaking and the planning alone takes time never mind the practicalities of erecting the scaffolding at each site and getting all the necessary paperwork in place to do so.
The Government has committed £1.6bn to facilitate this remediation work and while that is to be welcomed, some commentators believe the final cost will be much higher.
And when public funds are at stake, it is incumbent upon those responsible for using the funds, to do so in the most cost-effective way possible. Thankfully, councils seem to be acutely aware of this and many are starting to wake up to the possibilities that drones open up for them.
Iprosurv was instructed on an 15 story high rise where the cladding is falling away from the base structure. This is creating obvious health and safety issues but as the cladding falls away, moisture creeps in threatening to compromise the integrity of the building.
To satisfy insurance requirements, the managers of the building had to undertake a thorough inspection of the property to identify and quantify the risk and put a remediation plan in place. For a multitude of reasons, time was of the essence.
Getting the scaffolding up around the building to conduct a detailed inspection would have taken weeks if not months so they looked to other solutions and found Iprosurv.
We were able to secure the area, send a drone up, get detailed imagery of the damage to the façade and, using thermal imagery, pinpoint where moisture had seeped into the fabric of the building.
From this, the client was able to prioritise the remediation and pull together a plan to take to their insurer to ensure that the building could be made safe and satisfy the insurance requirements. And of equal importance, all this was made possible with zero disruption to residents in the building or the surrounding area.
From instruction to delivery of all the data to the client, including a high definition 3D model, took eight days and cost 1% of what it would have cost to erect the scaffolding.
While this is just one instruction on one building in one council on one insurer’s portfolio, if we were to extrapolate those time and fiscal savings across the portfolio of buildings that require inspection, the savings would be monumental.
It is very encouraging to see more and more insurers and councils explore the possibilities of drone technology but for society at large to see the full benefit, we need to get to a position where drones are an integral, normal part of the process, whatever that may be.
Anyone directly involved in the commercial use of drones will recognise the effort it has taken to get them accepted as an integral part of business processes of all types. But increasingly, and particularly in nationwide safety projects such as the Government’s cladding remediation programme, their use starts to look like an urgent no-brainer.