Drones have arrived and while there was some early hesitance, their many significant benefits to business have been well-established for some time now.
But still, years later, we are not seeing drones penetrate the economy in the way they should have, or their buyers hoped. This often happens with great new technology developments, but why?
There are many reasons. Some of it will be cultural – there are still some out there who view drones as a threat or a menace, are reticent about learning new ways of working, or simply see them as just the latest fad that will fade away. But those views are very much in retreat now as the ‘head in the sand’ brigade head towards retirement so culture alone can’t account for the lack of penetration.
In addition, drones are heavily regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the regulations are constantly evolving. This regulation is vital to ensure that drones are applied in a safe way but keeping pace with the changes, training pilots to be continually compliant and applying the governance to all of that takes time and creates cost. That alone can kill an organisation’s appetite for drones.
The purchase and maintenance of hardware, image analysis software licenses, insurance, training, regulatory costs on many fronts, lost staff time in ineffective drone operations (£5k one off £13k p.a.) are just some of the costs that can lead to the benefit cases projected from drones not being realised.
Another reason, and linked to culture, is that while some companies are embracing drones, they are scratching the surface of their potential and only using them for a limited range of jobs. For example, maybe they were brought in to inspect a building for damage and that, for some businesses, is all they’ll ever do, perhaps because they don’t know the full application of drone technology.
Which leads us into what I believe is one of the key unrecognised reasons the drone revolution has slowed somewhat. After trying them out, many companies thought they could do this themselves and went out and invested in their own drones to realise the cost and service benefits.
But the reality is, those benefits haven’t been realised because the drones simply aren’t being used. Not because of cultural reasons, but technical and regulatory reasons make it harder than imagined.
In one case study £80k was invested in the new in-house drone set up, only eight flights were ever made as the effort required to continually train staff and run compliant processes became too much, the drones had fallen into dis-use and drone flights were purchased externally as needed. A great solution with many potential benefits became a costly problem child.
So many people rushed out at the start of drones and bought drones – surveyors, estate agents, power companies, emergency services, police, construction, engineering, agriculture and more. The tech is changing rapidly so what they bought quickly goes out of date – sometimes the key champion of drones has moved on or other more pressing projects arise, so they are just sitting there.
Which is not only a waste of the original investment in the technology, but those important cost saving opportunities within the original cost benefit cases are going begging.
But there is another approach that can get everything back on track and deliver even more value, and it’s one that most organisations will be familiar with – managed services.
Managed services take many forms but the one most relevant to drones is cloud computing. In the old days, companies had to buy in not just the computer hardware and software but the servers too, at huge cost
And that cost wasn’t a one off – the pace of change in IT is so rapid that what was cutting edge technology at one point, nears obsolescence in a couple of years.
Which is why cloud computing has taken off in the way it has – it has made cost more manageable but crucially, organisations benefit from real time software and capability updates, usually at no extra cost. And back office and user support is often available from the cloud provider.
To get the most out of drones and to realise those thousands of pounds of organisational savings and open up new revenue streams, organisations need to approach drones in exactly the same way they do their IT – strategically.
That example above has done just that and have engaged Iprosurv to manage their drone fleet on their behalf. In that engagement, they have, at a stroke, removed all these problems and leapt ahead to the cutting edge of what is available to maximise benefit opportunities.
It’s not any real surprise that businesses are struggling to realise the undoubted economic and service benefits of using drones – they are still relatively very new technology and everyone, who is entering the game, is finding their feet.
But some of us have been working with drones from the earliest days, have all the experience and training required, have the inroads and the influence with the regulator and have the expertise to know where the technology is going next.
Iprosurv, founded in 2014, is one of those firms and we stand ready to help you get your own personal drone revolution off the ground and contribute to the wider drone revolution.
The long awaited and insightful PWC report “Skies Without Limits v2.0” into drone technology has been published, and as always, makes very interesting reading for any drone organisation or organisation wanting to introduce the benefits of drone technology into their workflow.
Some key points and note worthy information contained in the report.
Reduction in carbon emissions
Drone contribution to the UK economy
Net cost savings
We have seen many of our customers realise the benefits of integrating drones into their workflows, whilst appreciating the value add return, from immediate critical decision-making, safer, cheaper, and with less impact on the environment than traditional methods.
@PwC has released their Skies Without Limits v2.0
‘A refreshed look at how drones could impact the UK’s economy, jobs, productivity, and quality of life.
A lack of awareness or willingness to explore the benefits of drone technology in insurance could be holding back the development of the sector, according to new research.
A survey of nearly 100 insurers and brokers across the UK, conducted by Research in Insurance in Evolution of Claims conjunction with Iprosurv, found that despite drone technology being identified as one of the top five pieces of technology insurance practitioners want to see used more, the majority of the market still doesn’t employ them.
When asked what kind of technology they would like to see used more in the industry, drones proved to be the fifth most popular behind automated claims processing, claims portals, greater use of videos and cameras, and the introduction of claims apps, out of a total of 20 choices.
Despite this appetite for adoption, of those surveyed, 60% of insurers and 89% of brokers said they weren’t currently using drones.
Lack Of Awareness
Nearly a third of insurers (32%) and 28% of brokers admitted that they just don’t understand the tech with 11% of insurers and 30% of brokers saying they don’t see a need.
However, it does seem that there is an appetite to use drones within organisations with 29% of insurers and 9% of brokers blaming a lack of appetite in the organisation for their absence. This is highest (30%) among those working at a support level of the business.
However, when asked if they would use drones if they reduced the claims life cycle, not one insurer said that they wouldn’t use them with only 6% of brokers ruling the idea out.
Nearly half of insurers (46%) and 35% of brokers said they definitely would use them but again, there appears to be resistance to drones at certain levels in some organisations with 54% of respondents saying they didn’t have the influence to introduce them to their business.
Rebecca Jones CEO Iprosurv
“It’s remarkable that drones can be one of the most eagerly anticipated pieces of technology in insurance, yet the majority of organisations aren’t currently using them,” said Rebecca Jones, CEO and co-founder of Iprosurv, one of the UK’s leading drone services providers.
“We know from working with a growing number of insurers, brokers and loss adjusters over the last seven years that drones significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to assess a claim and do so at a fraction of the cost of traditional approaches.
“The industry is telling us that this is exactly what they want, and these services are available from a number of organisations across the country, yet the industry as a whole just doesn’t seem to be able to properly explore the opportunities presented.”
Drones played a key role in many organisations’ ability to manage claims at the height of the pandemic with loss adjusters and insurers using drones to conduct remote assessments while their people were confined to their homes.
And the benefits of that approach appear in the research with 40% of insurers and 33% of brokers reporting a positive impact of adjusters employing remote technology to manage claims.
Tech in the Pandemic
Conversely, adjusters not embracing remote technology during the pandemic appears to have had an impact on service levels with nearly half of insurers (47%) and brokers alike (49%) saying they had seen a negative impact from adjusters not being able to get out during lockdown.
“Over the last seven years, we have seen more and more insurers, adjusters and now brokers switch on to what drones can do for their businesses and their clients and it appears that these early adopters continue to enjoy a competitive advantage.
“It is clear from the research that the appetite for increased drone use is there – it’s up to us and the rest of the commercial drone sector to keep showcasing what drones can do until the majority of the market is employing them to transform the way we manage claims.”
Established in 2014, Iprosurv provides companies with the in-house capability of drone and data/media delivery services. Our CAMERA system and optimum drone operator platform provides bespoke services be that an on-demand, fully managed service to independent data/media delivery services.
Iprosurv is a pioneer in the provision of drone technology across a range of industries. Its current network of pilots, covering the entirety of the UK, use a proprietary system to record, store and deliver drone data to clients in a fast and secure way. From building surveys to flood response to assisting emergency services, Iprosurv continues to push the boundaries of how drones can be used in business.
When we set up Iprosurv back in 2014, the number one priority was to convince the industry that drones in insurance were the future and that they had a huge role to play in claims and risk management. We believed that then just as much as we do today.
And as we come to the end of our sixth year, I find myself thinking (tentatively), that in the last year the market has finally had its eyes well and truly opened to the possibilities presented by tech and by extension, drones.
In those early days when Shane and I first set out, it was a hard slog convincing insurers and adjusters that there was a better, cheaper way for them to manage their claims using drones to conduct aerial surveys. But a brave few souls took the leap (you know who you are!) and when they did, their peers saw what was possible and more and more have turned to drones for the proven cost and time savings.
So much so, that drones are now a regular point of discussion in the claims and risk management community and they have recently become part of the general market discourse in the trade press.
We are nowhere near full adoption of unmanned aerial vehicles yet, but the momentum is there – it’s only a matter of time before every insurer and loss adjuster is using drones as standard. And I’m not shy to admit that this gives me a huge sense of satisfaction. To imagine a different way of doing things and then to see that actually take place … it’s something else.
We always knew drones were perfect to assess the scale and impact of a major flood with their ability to get a bird’s eye view of a landscape. But we hadn’t considered that they could be used by farmers to assess crop damage by taking the colour temperature of their crops.
We hadn’t considered that a water supply firm would want to use drone mapping software to detect leaks in a water pipe rather than dig up the landscape in a time-consuming and expensive search.
We hadn’t considered that a security firm would ask us to survey the security measures at a port facility to help them identify weaknesses in that security.
And we hadn’t expected to be called in by the emergency services to provide crucial support in search and rescue operations.
But all of these instructions and more have come in this year – from statutory LOLER inspections to thermal renewables for hospital refurbishments to site surveillance in support of a criminal prosecution of fly-tippers. All of these have opened our minds to the huge array of potential applications for drone technology.
The interesting thing is, other than using different types of cameras (LIDAR, thermal, photogrammetry) and tailoring the pilot skill with the job, Iprosurv hasn’t actually moved far from our core offering – collecting, translating and delivering data to our clients in a fast, cost-effective and completely secure way.
What is different is the mindset of our clients and the profile of our new clients. It feels like we are well beyond the first hurdle of introducing drones to the commercial world and are now faced with a different challenge – managing the demand and adapting our skills to those new demands.
But the flexibility of drones actually makes that side of things quite straightforward – whatever the request, I can pretty much guarantee that we have a pilot and the equipment to meet it. Just last week we were instructed by an insurer on a business interruption claim and using our imagery and data, the insurer was able to save over £1m by instructing us for less than a thousand pounds. This case, coming in at the end of a hectic year, pretty much encapsulates what drones can do for the insurance industry.
So, where next for Iprosurv and drones after a momentously challenging and rewarding year? Based on what we expected compared to our experience today, I wouldn’t dare hazard a guess but what is certain that our ever curious and creative clients will continue to find more uses for drones and continue to surprise the Iprosurv team in the process.
Whether you are a current or a future client or just an interested observer, I hope you all manage to experience some kind of festive joy during a very different festive season and that when we all return after the break, we will see some light at the end of an often very dark tunnel.
Drones aren’t new technology by any means. Now, however, thanks to new software and better understanding by industries-it seems their time has now arrived.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—better known as drones—have been used
commercially since the early 1980s. Today, however, practical applications for
drones are expanding faster than ever in a variety of industries, thanks to
robust investments and the relaxing of some regulations governing their use.
Responding to the rapidly evolving technology, companies are creating new
business and operating models for UAVs.
The total addressable value of drone-powered solutions in all applicable
industries is significant—more than $127 billion, according to a recent PwC analysis. Among the most promising areas is
agriculture, where drones offer the potential for addressing several major
challenges. With the world’s population projected to reach 9 billion people by
2050, experts expect agricultural consumption to increase by nearly 70 percent
over the same time period. In addition, extreme weather events are on the rise,
creating additional obstacles to productivity.
Agricultural producers must embrace revolutionary strategies for
producing food, increasing productivity, and making sustainability a priority.
Drones are part of the solution, along with closer collaboration between
governments, technology leaders, and industry.
Use Cases for Agricultural
Drone technology will give the agriculture industry a high-technology
makeover, with planning and strategy based on real-time data gathering and
processing. PwC estimates the market for drone-powered solutions in agriculture
at $32.4 billion. Following are six ways aerial and ground-based drones will be
used throughout the crop cycle:
1. Soil and field analysis: Drones can be instrumental at the start
of the crop cycle. They produce precise 3-D maps for early soil analysis,
useful in planning seed planting patterns. After planting, drone-driven soil
analysis provides data for irrigation and nitrogen-level management.
2. Planting: Startups have created drone-planting systems that
achieve an uptake rate of 75 percent and decrease planting costs by 85 percent.
These systems shoot pods with seeds and plant nutrients into the soil,
providing the plant all the nutrients necessary to sustain life.
3. Crop spraying: Distance-measuring equipment—ultrasonic
echoing and lasers such as those used in the light-detection and ranging, or
LiDAR, method—enables a drone to adjust altitude as the topography and geography
vary, and thus avoid collisions. Consequently, drones can scan the ground and
spray the correct amount of liquid, modulating distance from the ground and
spraying in real time for even coverage. The result: increased efficiency with
a reduction of in the amount of chemicals penetrating into groundwater. In
fact, experts estimate that aerial spraying can be completed up to five times
faster with drones than with traditional machinery.
4. Crop monitoring: Vast fields and low efficiency in crop
monitoring together create farming’s largest obstacle. Monitoring challenges
are exacerbated by increasingly unpredictable weather conditions, which drive
risk and field maintenance costs. Previously, satellite imagery offered the
most advanced form of monitoring. But there were drawbacks. Images had to be
ordered in advance, could be taken only once a day, and were imprecise.
Further, services were extremely costly and the images’ quality typically
suffered on certain days. Today, time-series animations can show the precise
development of a crop and reveal production inefficiencies, enabling better
5. Irrigation: Drones with hyper-spectral, multi-spectral, or thermal sensors can identify which parts of a field are dry or need improvements. Additionally, once the crop is growing, drones allow the calculation of the vegetation index, which describes the relative density and health of the crop, and show the heat signature, the amount of energy or heat the crop emits.
6. Health assessment: It’s essential to assess crop health
and spot bacterial or fungal infections on trees. By scanning a crop using both
visible and near-infrared light, drone-carried devices can identify which
plants reflect different amounts of green light and NIR light. This information
can produce multispectral images that track changes in plants and indicate
their health. A speedy response can save an entire orchard. In addition, as
soon as a sickness is discovered, farmers can apply and monitor remedies more
precisely. These two possibilities increase a plant’s ability to overcome
disease. And in the case of crop failure, the farmer will be able to document
losses more efficiently for insurance claims.
The government will develop a new mobile counter-drone unit to be deployed to drone-related incidents and major events across the UK, as part of the government’s “Counter-Drone” Strategy launched by Security Minister Brandon Lewis today.
The world-leading strategy will ensure individuals, businesses and emergency services in the UK can continue to harness the economic and social benefits of drones, while cracking down on misuse and disruption.
It includes plans to drive forward the establishment of international design standards for manufacturers to enable safety features to be designed in from the start and make drones safe to use in the UK. This will happen with input from a new industry action group to encourage collaboration with government, drive progress and stay ahead of malicious drone users.
A new mobile counter-drone unit will be created, containing detection and disruption equipment, which can be deployed by police and other emergency responders to protect major events and rapidly respond to drone incidents across the UK.
Security Minister Brandon Lewis said:
“This government is proud of the UK’s burgeoning drone industry and we will do all that we can to ensure that the UK firmly establishes itself as a world leader in this industry”.
“But to ensure the drone industry can thrive in this country we must be able to crack down effectively on those who would use drones to cause harm or disruption”.
“There is no silver bullet to help protect our infrastructure and our citizens from malicious or careless drone use. That’s why this Strategy outlines a broad range of work to ensure we can effectively tackle the threat”.
The use of unmanned aircraft has grown significantly in recent years and the industry is expected to contribute an extra £42 billion to the UK economy by 2030, with more than 76,000 commercial and public sector drones expected to be in use by this date.
However, this also increases the risks of malicious use. Latest statistics show there were 168 police recorded drone incidents in England and Wales in 2018, and 165 drones were recovered at prisons in 2016 and 2017.
Transport Minister Baroness Vere said:
“Unmanned aircraft, including drones, could transform how we move people and goods, boost our economy and even save lives. Unfortunately, they can be, and have been, used recklessly at airports and in our skies”.
“The UK has been at the forefront in tackling the malicious use of unmanned aircraft. This strategy, alongside existing and planned legislation, will let us tap into the benefits of this technology while helping keep people safe both in the air and on the ground”.
The strategy also includes:
the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, which will give police increased powers to tackle illegal drone use
a new national standard for police recording of illegal drone activity to help build a picture of the drone threat
national guidance for police to assist them during malicious drone incidents
the government’s ongoing work with industry to research and test the latest counter drone equipment so that police across the country are able to respond to threats – building on the work already done across government
over the next 3 years, the government will work with partners to compile a catalogue of approved counter-drone technology to assure police and the owners and operators of critical national infrastructure sites that they are investing in the most effective and appropriate technology
a government communications campaign to educate the general public and continue to encourage safe drone use
Earlier this year it was announced that from 30 November 2019, every operator of a drone weighing more than 250g will need to register with the Civil Aviation Authority and all remote pilots will have to have passed an online competency test
Like many emerging technologies, drones play an ever more important role in business and there are currently more than 5,000 commercial users currently registered in the UK. They also provide an increasingly vital tool to assist the work of our emergency services.
the last 5 years Iprosurv have been droning on about drones to various
industries, insurance companies, loss adjusters and facilities management to
name but a few. We can honestly say it has been a long hard road, there have
been ups and downs, good times and bad times but we kept on going and going and
going. In 2016 we recruited our first major client and continued to try and
educate the market on the advantages of drone technology and the different
outputs, So it was a great moment when in the Iprosurv inbox arrived a document
“RICS insight paper” named “Drones: applications and compliance for surveyors” author
Peter Kinghan MRICS. Reading this document, it became very apparent
their had been a shift change in the thinking within the surveying market. Below
are some excerpts from the article, the full article can be accessed here
have a long history, but it is only relatively recently that their commercial
potential has been recognised offering significant benefits and opportunities
to businesses around the world.
UAVs have evolved beyond the ‘hype’ and are now starting to
become operationally viable on an expanding commercial basis. Of course, UAVs
are not just for surveyor use and can be used by numerous other professions and
sectors, but we are part of a broad church and believe that this insight paper
provides an opportunity to understand and appreciate the potential benefits of
The development of disruptive technologies has changed the
way we live and work throughout history: the steam engine, the automobile, the
personal computer, more recently the smartphone – and now the drone.
Many industries have warmed to the potential that drones can
bring. This is because these smaller aircraft platforms, operating at lower
altitudes than satellites and manned aircraft, result in the democratisation of
data and overcome the hurdles, such as cloud cover, faced by these more
Despite fast-moving developments, drones are still in their
infancy. As the technology develops the regulatory system is playing ‘catch-up’
and governments are grappling to regulate the practitioners, manufacturers and
systems within the industry. There is also the ever-increasing need for
simplicity as the different standardisation bodies become involved to ensure
the technology is fit for purpose and will integrate seamlessly into daily
Unlike satellites drones are not, typically, on a fixed
orbit and do not have the significant mobilisation requirements of manned
aircraft. In addition, they have the capability for greater temporal data and
far richer spatial resolution, particularly when data is required for a small
area (see Figure 3). In terms of spatial coverage, satellites and manned
aircraft will always have the advantage, but drones offer remote sensing that
bridges the gap between the ‘boots on the ground’ and satellites or manned
Drones are small, offer highly flexible use, are easy to
handle and available at a comparatively low cost. In emergency situations, e.g.
search and rescue, drones offer additional benefits in providing close to
real-time information and a better understanding of the dynamics of the
environment. Also, the lower costs and reduced time-frames ultimately mean
improvements in site and asset management. Drone operators can also generally
work around (or below) the weather restrictions, such as clouds, that limit
other remote-sensing platforms.
As the industry continues to grow the ‘drones for good’
story needs to be highlighted to the public to ensure full appreciation of the
benefits – not just to the surveying profession, but to society as a whole.
Public buy-in will be essential if the drone industry is to reach its full
potential. There is, however, an onus on commercial drone operators to act
responsibly and ensure compliance with all regulations.
This insight paper also includes in-depth sections on:
a rapidly evolving national and international drone industry
opportunities and challenges for drone users
drone platforms and, even more importantly for surveyors, sensors (from optical to hyperspectral)
current and emerging regulatory and compliance issues, including national and international legislation and developing standards
factors to consider ahead of incorporating this cutting-edge technology into your business
The full paper “Drone applications and compliance for surveyors” can be ccessed here.
Acknowledgments to: Author Peter Kinghan MRICS Professional Group Lead James Kavanagh FRICS Publishing team Project manager: Ellie Scott Editor: Katie Pattullo
New drone laws being introduced on 30 November 2019 will require
owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register with the Civil Aviation
and for drone pilots to take an online safety test to ensure the UK’s skies are
safe from irresponsible flyers.
changes are part of the future of mobility Grand Challenge, which was laid out in the government’s
modern Industrial Strategy. Ensuring drones are being used
safely will pave the way for the devices to play an increasingly important role
Drones have the potential to bring great benefits to the UK,
they already help inspect national infrastructure like our railways and power
stations, and are even aiding disaster relief speeding up the delivery of
blood. PwC has
predicted the industry could be worth £42 billion in the UK by 2030.
The new laws are being made via an amendment to the Air
Navigation Order 2016.Users who fail to register or sit the competency tests
could face fines of up to £1,000.
There has been a significant increase in the number of
commercial permissions issued by the CAA in
the last year. The number of active commercial licences increased from 2,500 to
3,800 in 2017, a year on year growth of 52%.
A recently released PwC report highlighted that the uptake of drones could be worth up to £41.7 billion to the UK GDP by 2030.
The scheme will
register operators rather than drones. Once registered the operator will
receive a unique code that must be applied to all the drones they are
responsible for. The entire process will be online.
Linked to registration is an online drone
safety education and test package. This is also a legal requirement from the
end of November for anyone flying a drone, whether or not they are a drone owner.
There will be no charge for this.
https://iprosurv.com/2022/12/01/organisations-need-to-approach-drones-in-the-same-way-they-do-their-it-strategically/Organisations need to approach drones in the same way they do their IT – strategically.
https://iprosurv.com/2022/07/19/pwc-report-skies-without-limits-v2-0/PWC Report “Skies Without Limits v2.0”
https://iprosurv.com/2022/01/04/lack-of-awareness-about-the-benefits-of-drones-technology-could-be-impacting-development-of-insurance-sector/Lack Of Awareness About The Benefits Of Drones Technology Could Be Impacting Development Of Insurance Sector
https://iprosurv.com/2020/12/17/what-next-for-drones-and-iprosurv-our-clients-will-always-guide-us/What next for drones and Iprosurv? Our clients will always guide us …
https://iprosurv.com/2020/01/02/drones-are-revolutionizing-agriculture/Drones Are Revolutionizing Agriculture
https://iprosurv.com/2019/10/22/action-to-detect-deter-and-disrupt-the-misuse-of-drones/Action to detect, deter and disrupt the misuse of drones
https://iprosurv.com/2019/10/09/the-times-they-are-a-changing/The Times They Are a Changing