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Oxford Council body to offer drone services

11/09/18

UKA Correspondent

The service delivery and commercial arm of Oxford City Council has announced plans to provide drone based services to include roof and building surveying, land mapping, aerial photography and filming. 

Drone flying over house

Oxford Direct Services (ODS), which was created in April, said it is the first time a council owned organisation has brought drone services in-house. 

The organisation has invested in an off-the-shelf DJI Phantom 4 Advanced quadcopter drone, which has dual band satellite positioning (GPS and GLONASS), five vision sensors for obstacle detection and a one inch 20 Mega Pixel camera capable of shooting 4K super HD video and stills.  

It has obtained a licence from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to offer commercial services with qualified and insured pilots, and said it will operate in accordance with best practice and the relevant rules under the General Data Protection Regulation.

Initially, it will use its drones to survey the roofs of 7,800 properties it maintains on behalf of Oxford City Council, saying it will save time and money and reduce the health and safety challenges.

This will be followed up by commercial surveying, mapping, aerial photography and filming. 

Total sense

Simon Howick, ODS’s managing director, said: “Hiring a drone firm costs between £300-£1,000 to survey a roof, with scaffolding also expensive and cumbersome. It made total sense to invest in the drone equipment, flight training and licensing and add this skillset to our portfolio. 

“It’ll pay for itself within a year, we’ll save money for our main customer – Oxford City Council – with drones becoming an additional revenue stream given we can now offer local businesses and residents surveying, mapping, photography and filming services.”

Ben Strang, ODS’ project leader of drone services, said: “We’ll be very proactive with residents to safeguard their privacy. This means we’ll inform people by letter when we’ll be operating, the reasons for it and offer them the footage if they so wish. This is all documented in our operations manual which had to be approved by the CAA as part of our licensing process.”

ODS said that all of its profits will be used to fund public services in the community.

Image from Oxford Direct Services

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