Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) are starting to be used to survey church buildings.
Drones offer a cost-effective way of carrying out a visual inspection of difficult to reach and fragile structures without having to install scaffolding.
Alan Perrin of Cambridge Unmanned Aerial Vehicles explains:
“We had been operating various aerial platforms for many years to allow the visual inspection of high buildings and especially those that presented a challenge for access.”
“With the recruitment of staff that specialize in the field and the advent of reliable multi-rotor flight control systems and high capacity lithium polymer batteries it was decided to investigate the possibility of using unmanned aerial vehicles to fulfil some of the requirements of its survey and inspection work.”
“When contacted by a potential customer, the first element of our flight plan is to find out just exactly what you’re trying to achieve with the aerial survey. With ecclesiastical buildings it’s normally a fixed structure that we’ll be flying near and the requirement is for HD video content in the survey. HD video can be paused and images extracted very easily for stills.”
“Usually, during the flight, the images transmitted from the aircraft can be viewed by the client on the ground station screen, giving the ability to request any last minute adjustments. Upon landing, the images can be reviewed and a copy supplied immediately.”
“Any regular traveller on the East Coast main line or the A1 will be familiar with the dramatic sight of the spire of St. Peter’s Church, Yaxley, sitting on top of its hill, visible for many miles across the flat landscapes of the fens – even more so at night when it is floodlight.”
“Early last year, I was invited to become the quinquenial architect for St. Peter’s and together with the Churchwardens, started planning for the forthcoming inspection. As with most historic buildings of this date and complexity, access to some areas is difficult and potentially dangerous. It is not for the feint-hearted and an insurance nightmare. Consequently this element had not been inspected for very many years.”
“The solution came as a result of seeing UAV’s (commonly referred to as “Drones”) being used in other fields for high definition filming. We used drones supplied by Cambridge UAV to help us with our inspection and the results were spectacular.”
“We obtained a very comprehensive understanding of the condition of parts of the church which were inaccessible and even discovered problems which would have been unlikely to have been noted even if we could have accessed them (for example the broken hinge to the spire door would have only been noted if we had got out onto the parapet and then closed the door behind us).”
“This is an invaluable tool, removing the need for time-consuming, costly and very dangerous access problems and providing high-definition records of otherwise inaccessible elements.”