Simon Downing, Senior Fire Safety Consultant, discusses how the use of Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, can streamline the surveying process whilst minimising risk of accident or injury.
Using drones to complete building and land surveys isn’t novel but the benefits of doing so aren’t promoted enough. Not only is it faster, cheaper and a more streamlined approach, with less operational impact on a site, in many cases it is an inherently safer way of working.
Our teams have therefore been increasingly taking advantage of drone technology to complete building surveys. For example, RPS’ recent use of a drone for a fire compartment survey saved more than 6000 person hours, scaffolding costs in the region of £300k and reduced the project duration from 5 months to 2 months. In this particular example, the survey took place on a client’s nuclear licensed site, across approximately 6 km of fire wall, much of it at height.
Our partner (Texo Drone Survey and Inspection Ltd) specialise in drone survey equipment which utilise high definition wide angle conventional and infrared cameras, on board LED lighting and a protective cage. The flight data and high resolution footage is recorded to on board memory cards whilst live footage is streamed to the CAA licensed pilot and us as the camera operator; allowing the contractor and project teams to adopt a collaborative approach ensuring that all areas of interest are investigated and recorded.
Crucially, the use of drones also reduces the human risk of accident or injury by considerably reducing or eliminating the need for personnel to work at height – as tends to be required with more conventional methods.
According to HSE statistics falls from height in construction and manufacturing sectors are still the most common accidents leading to fatalities. Therefore, keeping people on the ground where practicable can greatly reduce the risk of accident or injury in any project.
The use of drones can also reduce exposure to other workplace risks as inaccessible or hazardous areas can be surveyed remotely. This benefit makes drones particularly welcome for undertaking surveys in high hazard industries, where risk can be heightened and health and safety protocol is paramount.
For me, the success we have seen with drones so far is proof that giving consideration to how we can utilise technological developments to streamline processes is essential to improve the service we provide to our clients, and demonstrably can help to ensure the health and safety of our people. I therefore see it as inevitable that the use of drone technology in the commercial sector will continue to increase over the coming years.
The range of drones available is vast, and the application of the technology wide ranging. In other words, the sky is the limit!