News

Oxford City Council brings drone services in-house

13 September 2018 | By BIM+ staff

Oxford Direct Services (ODS), the service delivery and commercial arm of Oxford City Council, has invested in a drone for roof and building surveying, land mapping, aerial photography and filming. 

The council believes it is the first to bring drone services in-house.

ODS is Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) licensed and approved to offer commercial services with qualified and insured pilots. ODS will operate fully in accordance with best practice and GDPR rules and regulations in relation to permission to fly, safety and the privacy of residents. 

Initially, ODS will focus on surveying the roofs of 7,800 properties it maintains on behalf of Oxford City Council. ODS says the use of drones will save time, drive down costs and reduce the health and safety challenges typically encountered with this type of work.

Commercial surveying, mapping, aerial photography and filming will be competitively priced consistent with each customer’s specific requirements.

ODS says drones are a clean, environmentally friendly, relatively quiet and unobtrusive way of surveying compared to using scaffolding or motorised elevated platforms.

ODS is using a DJI Phantom 4 Advanced quadcopter drone

Ben Strang, ODS project leader of drone services, said: “If you’re working on low to high rise housing blocks to identify, for example, pest entry points or find roof leaks, putting up scaffolding is at best a very hit-and-miss process. You erect the scaffolding where you think the source of issue lies but guaranteed it’s not there and then you waste time and money moving the scaffolding tower.

“Using a drone resolves this and helps us pinpoint exactly where we need to work so that we can do first-time fixes and enhance efficiency.”

Strang added: “We’ll be very proactive with residents to safeguard their privacy. This means we’ll inform people by letter when we’ll be operating, the reasons for it and offer them the footage if they so wish.  This is all documented in our operations manual which had to be approved by the CAA as part of our licensing process.”

ODS has invested in an off-the-shelf DJI Phantom 4 Advanced quadcopter drone which has excellent safety systems and is simple to fly using a remote controller with built-in screen. 

Offering up to 30 minutes’ flight time per battery, the DJI Phantom drone comes with dual-band satellite positioning (GPS and GLONASS), five vision sensors for obstacle detection and is equipped with a one inch 20 megapixel camera capable of shooting 4K super HD video and stills.  

Simon Howick, ODS managing director, said: “Hiring a drone firm costs between £300-£1,000 to survey a roof. It made total sense to invest in the drone equipment, flight training and licensing and add this skillset to our portfolio. It’ll pay for itself within a year and we’ll save money for our main customer – Oxford City Council – given we can now offer local businesses and residents surveying, mapping, photography and filming services.”

Oxford City Council created the wholly owned company in April 2018 to generate revenue for funding public services in the community.