Suppose you are experiencing difficulties with fly tipping on your work site or property. In that case, gaining evidence and subsequent legal representation could lead to a win in the law courts and a swift resolution. The effective use of drones and the camera footage they can capture can be examined in this case study.
A large vacant industrial unit was awaiting new business tenants. Although security staff patrolled the premises, an organised travelling group overwhelmed and evaded them and proceeded to set up camp on the grounds. Many caravans and the accompanying support vehicles built a large encampment. They started to use the empty building as a fly-tipping site. This was a well-organised operation, with many vehicles turning up throughout the day and night to dispose of waste.
The risks to health and the environment were impossible to calculate, as no official paperwork nor adherence to health and safety regulations was in place. There was no control over the nature of the illegally dumped items within the building. The client suspected that possible hazardous waste materials might also be left onsite. If this situation continues, the resulting removal and clean-up operation could run to costs beyond 100k. It would require costly Insurance claims and pay-outs. So, this untenable situation needed action.
The traditional route for resolution
In the past, the routes to resolution for similar situations have been passive. For example, waiting for the group to fill the site with debris and move on. This has the obvious positive that little conflict would arise. Though the resulting environmental risks, rising financial loss of rental and the clean-up, not to mention the impact on the local community are undesirable outcomes.
The second option would be to see if evidence of criminal activity could be obtained and submit this to the police to act. Although the police may not get involved quickly and so the more rapid route would be to gain evidence to support applications for injunctions and or evictions. This is the more proactive approach and initially the security company may be considered. However, in this scenario, it was felt that it may antagonise the situation and lead to a violent response.
How drone camera footage was utilised
The security company commissioned Iprosurv to deploy drone cameras to assist them in the collection of strong evidence. Iprosurv and its dedicated drone pilot operators use the latest technology drones. The cameras have zoom capabilities meaning that we could conduct covert surveillance from a safe distance in the initial stages. Vehicles were observed to have number plates exchanged, as drones were able to follow them to the various locations. Once there was sufficient evidence for an eviction process, the drones were further utilised during the eviction process itself.
Surveillance during eviction
Having an eye in the sky during the eviction of the offending group was invaluable. The aerial reconnaissance allowed for risk assessment and determination of resource requirements prior. Exits and entries were identified and considered in the eviction plan. The drones were able to gather evidence whilst eviction took place, ensuring that any violence from occupiers would be captured to support criminal prosecutions. Whilst also providing evidence of the security teams acting within their powers and policies to negate any future complains from the illegal occupiers.
The eviction went fairly smoothly and completion of the operation was 2-3 days in comparison to the usual 7-10 days. Owing to the shorter time frame, the waste deposited at the site was a reduction on similar fly-tipping operations. Meaning less impact on the environment. This also resulted in a reduction in subsequent clean-up costs and loss of rental revenue. The risks to personnel was lowered and the presence of the cameras provided health and safety and a duty of care to all. There was a diminished impact on local businesses and the residential community. Evidence of criminal activity and the identification of offenders led to both civil and criminal prosecutions, plus added intelligence for various agencies. Overall the client was satisfied with the effective use of the drone camera footage and the resulting benefits.
Author – Martin Twigg – Iprosurv
The Grenfell disaster which claimed the lives of 72 people was not a one-off event, absorbed and grieved over before everyone moved on. The repercussions of that night are still with us and continue to be significant for residents of high-rise buildings across the country. And, indeed, for the landlords, housing associations and local authorities responsible for those properties.
The task facing the nation’s property managers is huge. They have to survey an estimated 1,700 high rise blocks, remove the cladding and make them safe to live in. And they need to do it quickly.
The Government has pledged £1.6bn towards these remediation efforts but it is a complex system, one that has come under attack for its perceived inaccessibility. But perhaps more pressing is the view held by the Housing, Communities & Local Government Committee that this £1.6bn will only be enough to repair a third of the properties currently considered unsafe.
Which presents a huge fiscal challenge for everyone involved, not least local authorities.
It has been estimated by the same Committee that the cost of making each building safe will be £1.7m, covering everything from initial inspection, to the removal of cladding, to finishing the job. While it is clear that cutting corners or looking for cost savings in materials isn’t a viable option, there remains a pressing responsibility to keep costs down to make that fund stretch as far as is safely possible.
One part of the process where costs and timescales can be significantly reduced is in the inspection and survey of all these buildings through the use of drones. Not only can they do what a human can at a fraction of the cost, they can do it faster and with a greater degree of safety.
Drones are often viewed in extremes – either as a hobbyist’s toy or as a weapon of war. They are of course both, but increasingly, they are making their presence felt in the commercial world as more and more organisations wake up to their flexibility and adaptability. And one such area is the surveying of inaccessible properties.
Using High Resolution RGB imaging, drones can inspect the condition of a high-rise property (at a distance), in minute detail, in a fraction of the time it would take to do so manually using scaffolding, cherry pickers or ropes. The High Resolution RGB imaging is then translated into a 3D interactive model of the property which can be inspected in detail (up to 20mm) highlighting even the smallest amounts of damage to the outside and, when using thermal imaging, investigating anomalies such as damp ingress and thermal efficiency of the fabric of the building.
If LIDAR is incorporated increased levels of accuracy can be achieved down to 10mm and below.
The whole process, from instruction to inspecting the model, can take two or three days rather than the weeks and months required with traditional methods, and it is the speed with which drones can conduct surveys that should have landlords and local authorities sitting up and taking notice.
One of the problems facing property managers is understanding, in detail, the scope of the risk posed by their property portfolio and with the safety of tenants paramount, they need to understand it quickly.
Drones can help them do that as several inspections can be conducted in one day or over a period of days, providing the local authority with a quick, comprehensive view of their portfolio, including which properties pose the highest risk.
From here, the triage process begins, and drones are a speedy, cost-effective way of streamlining it, allowing the local authority to act quickly on its most vulnerable properties.
Drones can also act as a quality control tool to monitor and assess the ongoing work, and that governance role extends to post-work inspections to ensure the property has been re-instated as required.
If used properly, drones could and should act as the start and finish point of this remediation work and while they are not, of course, a catch-all solution for the many problems dogging the remediation programme, they do have a crucial role to play.
If the current remediation fund will not, as has been suggested, be sufficient to complete all the necessary work, then it is vital that any safe, reliable and proven cost-cutting measure be embraced as soon as possible.
In common with much of the commercial world, local authorities are at the early stages of exploring the possibilities presented by commercial drones. And in common with their private sector peers, it is those that recognise the opportunity earliest and act first, that will gain the most.
And that means giving tenants up and down the country quicker and more certain reassurance that they and their families are safe in their home.
Rebecca Jones is CEO and co-founder of Iprosurv
This and other articles can be viewed at LocalGov