Every time drones hit the headlines it seems to be for the wrong reasons … usually shutting major airports down.
But a drone expert says they are a powerful force for good with many positive uses that can benefit our society … and even our history.
Former RAF fighter pilot and instructor Jon Parker –who now runs UK drone training company Flyby Technology (https://www.flybydronetraining.co.uk) – said: “People often ask ‘so what are drones used for?’ and the answer is they do far more good than you may have ever imagined.”
Drones can be used to carry out exceptionally detailed surveys on buildings, saving a fortune in scaffolding and time.
Drones harness the very latest technology yet are used by the likes of the National Trust and Historic England to carry out detailed surveys of some of the UK’s oldest and most outstanding historic buildings.
Drones on Demand, for example, based in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, was commissioned by Ecclesiastical Insurance to take drone footage of historical landmarks and they have already done Blenheim Palace and Worcester Cathedral, getting into the nooks and crannies invisible to the naked eye and virtually impossible to reach for a manual inspection. This has included roofs, gutters and ornate features and the drone footage showed up loose slates and stonework along with missing pointing and places where water was gathering which could have caused serious damage if it wasn’t sorted out.
Jon said: “Drones don’t just carry cameras, they can also use laser scanners and highly specialist imaging units to capture precise measurements on buildings.”
The National Trust says images taken by drones are used on its website and publications to show breathtaking properties from angles visitors will have never seen before.
Laser-mapping of the properties by drones will lead to 3D models being created as a way of helping visitors to understand why they were built the way they are or, if they are in ruins, recreate what they once looked like.
The National Trust is also responsible for 1,000 square miles of countryside so drone footage will show up where bridges, walls, paths and fences need maintenance work.
Drones were deployed in the aftermath of severe flooding in Lincolnshire in June which left many homes under water and without power in Wainfleet near Skegness.
This led to a state of emergency being declared so the Lincolnshire Police Drone team took to the skies to help the Environment Agency get a full picture of the severe impact the flood was having on the area.
Jon said: “Drones and aircraft aren’t supposed to mix yet Air New Zealand is one of several airline companies now using drones to massively reduce the time it takes engineers to inspect an aircraft. They are doing an inspection job that used to take 6 hours for an engineer on a lift just one or two hours instead. It’s far more cost-effective having highly trained engineers working on planes to maintain or repair them than spending ages checking them over. This also means any repairs can be started sooner and the aircraft is back in the air faster.”
Drones are increasingly used by the military, saving the need to put pilots, soldiers, and sailors at risk.
Jon has listed a few of the other ways drones can be deployed in a positive way … and the list is constantly growing.
They are used by the emergency services for search and rescue to go along river banks or up into rocky crags and cliff faces searching for missing people; by oil and gas companies to survey their rigs at sea; analyse major construction projects from the air; by estate agents to capture amazing images of high value property for sale and tiny drones can even film 360 degree walk-throughs inside; inspecting power lines and power pylons for bird’s nests, lightning strikes, rust/corrosion, and damaged bolts; inspecting bridges and other high structures that are incredibly difficult to reach; the film industry is saving a fortune by using drones instead of helicopters for aerial shots; video and photos taken by drones operated by news organizations add massively to the way stories are reported and far more cheaply and safely than hiring helicopters; security companies use drones for large, sprawling sites and they can stream live pictures if an alarm is triggered.
And if you know of other ways drones are being used positively then please email Jon at [email protected]