How drones help us inspect traditional buildings

Unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones, have changed the way we look at the world.  They have transformed the way wildlife documentaries and blockbusters are filmed, and have made the inspection of wind farms, and oil rigs safer and more efficient. Not to mention the positive impact they have had on mountain rescue missions and mapping.

The technology has advanced very quickly in recent years to offer stable flight systems with onboard cameras capable of high resolutions and thermal imaging. Typical safety features include GPS positioning, automated return to home, and smart batteries which monitor and report the charge remaining.

Stirling City Heritage Trust have been flying drones for the Traditional Buildings Health Check inspections since early 2019. Our pilots are trained, certified, and insured to fly drones within built-up areas, subject to strict regulation by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

We can now inspect and photograph areas of buildings that we found previously impossible to assess without the use of scaffolding or a cherry picker.  Inaccessible roof areas, hidden valleys, high level gutters and chimneys are all within reach of our drone.

The safety of our inspectors has improved as the need to work at height has been reduced. For example, the condition of rainwater gutters can first be assessed using the drone, making ladders necessary only if the inspection team decide that physical examination would be beneficial. Where inspectors previously had to enter a property to access a rooflight to exit onto a roof with exposed edges, the drone can be flown, and detailed photographs taken from the relative safety of ground level.

Our drone is small, lightweight, and low noise meaning we can operate it without causing inconvenience or distress to residents of neighbouring properties, or their pets.  The inspection team wear high-visibility clothing and carry appropriate signage to ensure that residents and passers-by are aware that drone flights are being conducted. Flight operations normally take less than an hour to complete.

Legal requirements

In the UK, the person responsible for managing a drone weighing more than 250g must register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to obtain an Operator ID. Those intending to fly a drone (250g and above) must have a Flyer ID which shows they have passed the CAA’s official theory test.  Pilots must fly their drones safely and responsibly and follow the drone code. Those flying drones for work must have public liability insurance.

From 31st December 2020 the rules for flying drones have been the same in the UK and all European member states. The rules are based on the risk of the flight, and pilots must consider where they fly, proximity to other people and the size and weight of their drone. New regulations introduce three categories within which drones can be flown, and drone classification relating to a set of standards.

If you are interested in having a survey of your building undertaken please contact us to discuss. Our inspectors will assess if your building is suitable for a drone inspection.

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