A recent report by PwC identified that drones and unmanned aerial vehicles could contribute £16bn of net cost savings to UK economy, with government services having the potential to realise significant savings.

Local authorities continue to face unprecedented budget cuts resulting in the need to find innovative ways to deliver services more cost effectively. Drones can play a role in helping local authorities realise savings across the broad range of services they have a statutory responsibility to deliver.

The most immediate benefits from drones will come from lower costs and improved productivity. Drones can be used to increase efficiency of tasks whilst also enhancing safety, reducing risk and improving the quality of service delivered.

Given the breadth of services provided by Local Authorities, the potential use of drones is extensive. Here are some examples of how drones can enhance services and deliver savings:

  • Building inspection and maintenance – local authorities have large property portfolios they are responsible for maintaining. Rather than using traditional methods such as scaffolding and elevated platforms the use of drones has enabled one authority to accelerate their inspection programme and deliver multi-million pound savings whilst also minimising the health and safety risk of working at heights
  • Surveying and mapping – local authorities have recently produced new Local Plans setting out development needs to 2035. For many authorities, this required consideration of a wide range of brown and green field sites. The use of drones could have provided a more cost-effective way to deliver accurate surveys of potential sites
  • Progress reporting – highways departments are responsible for overseeing large scale construction projects such as new roads or road widening schemes. Drones are an efficient way to monitor progress by producing a referenceable visual timeline for the project to facilitate more effective contract management
  • Enforcement – local authorities are responsible for a wide range of enforcement activities including planning, fly tipping and boundary limits for extraction in quarrying or restoration of landfill site. Drones can maximise the use of limited resources to help improve the environment
  • Traffic analysis – automated traffic count data and modelling is used by local authorities to assess the potential impact of new developments. Actual behaviour vs modelled behaviour at complex junctions is often very different. Drones can provide supplemental videography to optimise traffic analysis models

There are many more potential uses for drones in local authorities. If you have a case study or an idea for a drone project it would be great to hear about it – info@agilio.co.uk.

There is a lot of interest in drones at the moment and rightly so. If deployed correctly, there are many uses where drones can increase productivity, deliver cost savings and reduce risk. Like any other enabling technology, introducing drones into the organisation needs careful planning particularly with the added complication of the highly regulated nature of the aviation industry. 

If you’re thinking about starting a drone operation within your organisation or looking to scale up an existing operation, from our experience, here are some of the key aspects of the project that will need careful consideration.

1. Understanding the uses

Drone technology is now extremely sophisticated, and many organisations don’t fully appreciate the wide range of uses where drones could deliver benefits. To maximise the potential of drones, we would suggest identifying potential uses from across the organisation and prioritising uses based upon the estimated benefits. We run workshops to help organisations better understand drone technology and identify potential uses

2. Developing the business case

The biggest mistake we see are business cases that focus on the technology rather than on the benefits that can be derived from the technology. Decision makers will want to see a well-balanced business case presenting the uses, costs, benefits, operating model and importantly how the regulatory and safety risks associated with drones will be mitigated. We have worked with many organisations to produce convincing and compelling business cases.

3. Covering off the regulatory and compliance requirements

These concerns can kill a drone project before it takes off. There are numerous policies and procedures that need to be developed and adopted covering aviation regulation, local restrictions, health and safety and privacy legislation. A drone operation also needs specialist insurance. There are also ongoing requirements to demonstrate operational compliance. Running an in-house drone operation requires skills and protocols that probably aren’t part of your everyday business. We can help cut through this bureaucracy and red tape.

4. Implement incrementally to validate assumptions

We have seen many organisations jump in feet first with full blown projects rather than deploy incrementally to learn and validate assumptions. We would suggest piloting (excuse the pun!) with a couple of uses to start with. Also, we would recommend that organisations initially use external expertise as this facilitates knowledge transfer and enables the organisation to focus on getting the business change right rather than worrying about obtaining in-house Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO). We can initially act as your PfCO during this phase of the project.

5. Choosing the right technology

Drone technology is evolving rapidly with ever more sophisticated drones and payload capabilities. There is no point investing in expensive LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology if the business case doesn’t stack up. The jury is still out on whether RTK (Real-Time Kinematic) solutions will replace traditional Ground Control Points. There are a plethora of image and data processing platforms available. Selecting the right platform depends upon the uses and outputs required. Image and data processing requires significant expertise and it may be better to outsource this part of the workflow. We can help you select the right technology and partners to work with.

6. Managing the change

Like any business change project, deployment of drone technology will have advocates and those that are not so keen. It is important to communicate and engage with staff, partners and potentially the wider public depending upon the uses. Stop any negativity early, create enthusiasm and capitalise on any innovation that may lead to other potential uses. We have extensive experience of delivering effective and lasting business change.

Thinking about an enterprise drone deployment or scale up, please email us info@agilio.co.uk.