From helping companies at various stages of their drone implementation journey, we’ve packed this FAQ page with useful information to help you and your company take the next steps to leveraging the power of drones in your business.
How can drones help my business?
With exciting progress made across the entire spectrum of the drone industry, the technology is now able to help businesses, across a range of industries, to solve some of their most complex challenges. Drones now have the ability to capture and analyse substantial amounts of data; much faster than traditional methods, but without compromising accuracy. They also have the ability to remove people from potentially hazardous situations.
What type of drone is best for my business?
Drones come in a range of different shapes and sizes. Fundamentally, the main types of commercial drone used in the UK are:
- Multi-rotor drone: By far the most common type of commercial drone currently used in the UK. As the name suggests, a series of rotors are used to provide lift to make the drone fly. The main advantage of a multi-rotor drone is that it is not reliant on airspeed to keep it in the air, allowing the pilot to hover the drone precisely in one position. The terms Quadcopter, Hexacopter, and Octocopter are frequently used to refer to a 4, 6 and 8-rotor drone.
- Fixed-wing drone: Unlike a multi-rotor drone, which uses rotating blades to generate lift, a fixed-wing drone relies on forward airspeed to keep it in the air. A combination of forward motion and the wings’ shape cause the air to be forced downward, which generates a lifting force on the drone and causes it to fly. The main advantage of a fixed-wing drone is that they are extremely power-efficient, so can cover vast areas without interruption.
- VTOL drone (Vertical Take-Off and Landing): This is essentially a hybrid of the multi-rotor and fixed-wing types described above. It uses the multi-rotor flight principal for take-off and landing, and the fixed-wing flight principal for main flight. The main advantage of a VTOL drone is that it benefits from the power-efficiency of fixed-wing flight, but unlike a fixed-wing drone, can conduct a vertical take-off and landing.
What type of camera do we need?
There is now a wide range of different cameras and sensors that can be used with a drone – in fact, it’s advancements in this area that has contributed to the growing relevance of drones in industry. Some examples of the common types of sensor now being deployed on drones:
- RGB (Red, Green, Blue) Camera: This is what everyone thinks of when they hear the word ‘camera’. Nowadays, an RGB camera of reasonable quality comes as standard on most entry level drones. A drone-mounted RGB camera allows users to capture high-resolution aerial imagery and video with professional results. Images from this type of camera can also be used with photogrammetry software to generate outputs like elevation maps, digital elevation models, basic vegetation maps, and 3D reconstructions.
- Radiometric Thermal Camera: A device that is able to display objects based on the heat signatures that they omit. Because each pixel of a thermal image contains thermal data, it is possible for the user to accurately measure the temperature of any part of a surface. This sensor type has contributed greatly to the adoption of drones by the emergency services in recent years. It’s also now becoming a common method to conduct structural inspections.
- Multispectral Camera: Unlike an RGB camera, where its images are a recreation of what the human eye can see, multispectral cameras are able to capture light bands that the human eye cannot, such as near infrared. Drone-based multispectral cameras, used in combination with specialist software, are particularly useful in the agriculture industry by giving farmers and agronomists the tools to quickly map and visualise crop issues earlier in the growing cycle.
Do we need to use special drone software?
Modern drones generally come as standard with their own native software to take care of flight control and data transmission. However, there is also a plethora of incredibly powerful 3rd party software platforms designed to add value, efficiency and safety to your drone work – these tend to fall into two categories:
- Those that are designed to unlock the full technical capabilities of the drone – some examples: drone-based photogrammetry, flight automation, cloud-based video broadcasting
- Those that are designed to optimise flight safety and operational compliance – some examples: real-time airspace information, flight planning & risk assessment tools, weather information
Do we need special training to start operating drones?
To fly drones in a commercial capacity (ie. for any form of direct or indirect revenue generation), your employees who will be responsible for flying need to attend a special training course, which provides them with all of the knowledge and skills required to operate drones safely and responsibly. The mandatory elements are usually covered over a 3-day course, but most training providers also offer bolt-on modules. You can find detailed information about the current drone laws within our previous blog article.
Do we need drone insurance?
We have created a comprehensive guide to drone insurance, which you can access here.
Do we need to register our drones?
In the UK, there is currently no requirement for you to register your drones per se. However, from the 30th November 2019, it became UK law for any company or individual using a drone with a weight of between 250g and 20kg to register as an ‘Operator’ under the UK’s Drone and Model Aircraft Registration Scheme. The unique ‘Operator ID’ number must be fixed to all drones operated by the organisation. The cost for this is £9.00 and is renewable annually. Any drone user who does NOT hold a valid PfCO must also pass an online competency test, upon which they’ll be provided with a ‘Flyer ID’. Further information about the scheme can be found here.
What are the main considerations for our company’s “in-house” deployment of drones?
The process of implementing your own drone operation is actually more straightforward than you might think, as long as you follow some important steps; in the right order:
- Feasibility – Understand the basic elements of the UK drone regulations and crosscheck against your planned operation. If it looks like you’ll fall outside of the normal regulations, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the project is a non-starter, it just means that you need to understand what additional actions you’ll need to take to ensure compliance.
- Designating operating responsibility – It’s important that you identify and appoint the members of staff who’ll be responsible for your drone operation at the earliest point possible. They are an important cog in the wheel, so you should have them involved from the outset.
- Selecting drone equipment & software – Have a clear picture of what you want to achieve from your use of drone technology. Careful consideration at this stage will ensure that you are purchasing the necessary system for the job in hand.
- Training – Aside from the mandatory PfCO training, you should also give serious consideration to scenario-based flight skills training. This will ensure your operators are well prepared for the work they’ll be doing and will eradicate any “bad habits” that may have crept in.
- On-going compliance – Once your company has received its PfCO, it’s important that your day-to-day drone work is always perfectly aligned with the content of your organisation’s Operations Manual. With this in mind, your drone operation should be overseen by a responsible person (AKA: Accountable Manager).
Why should we work with RAWview?
If you’ve read to this point, you may already be considering drones for your business. However, like many of the organisations we serve, it’s possible; even probable, that you don’t have the time to work out how to make the idea a reality. That’s why RAWview positioned itself to provide you and your team with all of the resource, products and services you will need for successful implementation and efficient operation. Whatever your industry, if you want to start using drones in your business, we’re ready to help you.