Drones For Commercial Use – Why?

If you do not know already, a drone is an unmanned aerial aircraft, sometimes referred to as a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). Drones are almost always powered by batteries and usually carry a payload of some type, such as a camera or a thermal imaging sensor. These different payloads mean that drones for commercial use are becoming more popular.

A drone can have several propellers to give them lift or they could be a fixed-wing aircraft, which are usually used for longer distance tasks. They are typically remotely controlled by a pilot although autonomous flight through pre-programmed flight paths, fully autonomous through AI is now quite common.

Drones for good – drones for commercial use.

Drones do not always get the good press that they deserve. This is largely because some people are irresponsible when it comes to flying them safely and within CAA guidelines. We recently saw a football match between Brentford and Wolves stopped because somebody was flying a drone near the stadium. You may also remember a drone bringing Gatwick airport to its knees in 2020, and there have been several privacy-related incidents reported to the police.

It is fair to say that drones divide public opinion, however, in the hands of qualified and responsible operators drones are starting to reshape the way businesses carry out their day-to-day activities.

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All drones are not created equally.

Technology advances have meant that the cost of drones is coming down whilst their capabilities are increasing, so the barriers to entry to using them commercially are lower, at least financially.

DJI has certainly seemed to have cornered the market when it comes to commercial drones although many manufacturers are entering and competing in the market, such as Autel or Skydio. The type of drone deployed usually depends on the type of task you must complete. Some of the questions you might ask when choosing a drone include:

  • Do you need to carry a large payload – camera or sensor, for example?
  • Do you require a drone for confined spaces?
  • Is it an internal or external task?
  • Does it need to be weatherproof?
  • Do you need to collect different types of data at the same time?
  • What flight time do you require?

These questions and more will help determine what type of drone is best suited to a particular task.

As well as the capability of the drone you should also consider other factors such as safety records as well as how the drone complies with local laws, particularly in terms of geofencing, which prevents you from flying in protected airspace unless you have certain permissions to do so.  All these things increase public safety and reduce the risk of you breaking the law or worse, causing a major incident.

Why use drones for commercial activities anyway?

Drones have transformed several commercial tasks. They are being widely used in inspection, asset management, search and rescue, surveillance and security, crop management, and much more. They are being used across many sectors such as Oil and Gas, Green Energy, Media Production, Surveying, Construction, and much more.

There are several reasons why drones have been adopted by businesses.

Safety. Drones can go into places that would otherwise be dangerous for people. Whether this is up on a roof or in a confined space with potentially hazardous chemicals, why put people at risk when a drone can do the same task. There is no need to use ropes, ladders, scaffolding, edge-protection, breathing apparatus, bio-hazard suits, etc. Not only does this cut down on the number of injuries or deaths but it can also lower insurance costs.

Efficiency. Drones will usually decrease the amount of time taken to complete a particular task. They can quickly fly over large areas, or around complicated structures, whilst taking images or videos which can then be analysed, either manually or by software. For example, to fly over a solar farm with a radiometric thermal imaging sensor, detecting anomalies at an individual cell level, can take minutes rather than hours taken for a manual inspection of each panel.

Data available. Certain commercial-grade drones can be equipped with interchangeable sensors. This sensor might be a high-resolution camera, a thermal imaging camera, a gas detector, a LIDAR system for creating point clouds, or something else. They can also be equipped with mechanical tools such as crop sprayers, or droppers. As technology advances these add-ons are becoming smaller and smaller enabling drones to use them more effectively.

Repeatable outcomes. Automated flight software has enabled us to pre-programme flight paths which allow the drone to capture the data autonomously, whilst under the watchful eye of the operator. This enables you to recreate and fly the same mission time and time again which not only leads to better efficiency but also allows you to monitor your subject over a period of time. This could be useful for construction projects, asset depreciation, monitoring deforestation or coastal erosion, or something else.

Thermal Imaging Solar Inspection

What do you need to fly a drone commercially?

Firstly, you will need to comply with your country’s laws surrounding commercial drone use. In the UK it is the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) who sets out the rules for commercial drone use. There are some exams to take and flight assessments to pass, depending on the type of drone you wish to operate. There are also industry-specific insurances you need to have in place to operate commercially.

It can be complicated and costly to start using drones commercially which is why we would recommend working with an established drone operator to achieve your businesses objectives. A reputable company will have the qualifications, the insurance, the experience, and the equipment already in place to deliver meaningful data to your business straight away. If you have a project that you feel might benefit from the use of drones and drone gathered data, please get in touch with us as we enjoy talking about this kind of stuff.

We are licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to carry out commercial flight operations and we adhere to very strict safety standards to ensure that all our flights are low risk and do not pose a danger to your employees, your property and uninvolved persons.

We are fully insured with industry specific public liability insurance of at least £5m, although I am pleased to say we have never needed it.

Call us on 0800 774 7140 or use the form below and we’ll get back to you.

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