By Vicky Green 

When the Lab first purchased a drone, we were expecting questions, especially with the negative press surrounding them.  

Are they a fad, or something that can really help with efficiency and customer focus?

We were soon approached by our surveyors who had spotted the drone in the Lab and wanted to do a much needed roof inspection of a 50ft building.  Without any roof access it would mean erecting scaffold around the regency property at a cost of thousands of pounds. 

Using drones for video recording is a complex area for any organisation. People are worried by the privacy aspects , much as they were in the early days of Google Street View. 

As a result we identified really early on that we wanted to work with someone of expertise who had the right credentials to ensure we were doing the right thing by our customers. So after much scouring we found team of enthusiasts who had turned their talent into a business.

If we saw how they did the test - perhaps we could train our colleagues to do their own inspections?  

On the day we realised it was so much more than that.

We worked with the specialists who made sure the take off areas were safe – we spent the first hour just planning how the drone could do its job safely! A previous test was cancelled due to high winds. 

With a surveyor from Bromford in control of the flight path and checking images taken, we were able to execute the test with ease - the lack of wind and plenty of sunshine helped enormously.

So what did we really learn?

One thing that hadn’t occurred to us was the local interest a drone would have.  We had pedestrians taking photos, local enthusiasts rocking up to compare sizes of their drones, neighbours popping out to view the aerial shots of their roof spaces.

We talked to local residents who spoke of the time, noise and inconvenience of having scaffold towers erected and most importantly the feeling of being unsafe at the thought of someone climbing up a tower.  They also pointed out that many scaffold companies install alarms on their towers, which could also potentially lead to call outs when activated. 

Also our surveyor would have to spend increased time on site liaising with the scaffold company and residents.  This compares with a drone survey in less than two hours.

So, was the thought of having a drone fly past your window really an issue for customers?  

We found that it wasn’t.  Local people were interested and actually chuffed to bits that they saw something different and interesting!

We did of course write to all the residents before completing the test, advising them to close windows and curtains if they wished to.  And to be fair some did, but lots didn’t – they chose to watch the flight instead and enjoy it! One customer was even disappointed when arriving home finding that he had missed all the action.

Do Drones get the Lab approval?

We are in the process of receiving the full images, so it’s too early to say whether the test passed or failed. We want to be able to identify close up the condition of the roof.  We will share the results as soon as we have them.  We had a great company to work with, so the legal issues were dealt with and they were flying experts! 

Our Top Tips:

1-     Make sure you get the legal stuff right or hire a company who know what they are doing, do your homework on the rates they charge!

2-     Make sure you do right by your customers and community.  Keep them safe and respect their privacy – let them know what is going on!

3-     Be prepared for fans.  People are interested, so let them be a part of it.  Simply sharing a sneak preview of how it works makes a difference.

4-     Be flexible as you may need to rearrange – people crashing their drones and bad weather can limit use.

5-     Be clear on why you are doing it – it’s not just about saving money, think about if it will lead to a better customer experience and less inconvenience to those who live there.

Watch this space for more drone tests in the future.