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RCI May 2017

THE ENVELOPE Drones: Panacea or Pandora’s box? By Mike Wharton, head of membership & commercial services, Their use in the military is well known, with the global media standing as both judge and jury in their use. They’re also far from new; their development goes back to the First World War when the US Navy commissioned Elmer Ambrose Sperry, the inventor of the gyroscope, to come up with a way of launching unmanned aircraft over enemy positions. The term “drone” can be polarizing. There are other more socially acceptable names such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s), or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). Their use is causing ripples of a different kind across the construction industry as a whole, and sector-wise none more so than roofing. CITB recently funded flight training for one of our members and there is talk of them formulating an NVQ in conjunction with the UAV industry for a “Roofing Pilot” qualification. Many agencies use them successfully at present, from the Police to Search and Rescue and the Fire Service. What better way to reduce the risk of operatives working at height than to use a UAV? Why send a person up a ladder when a small, battery powered, remote controlled device with a high definition camera hanging underneath can take the strain and the risk out of the situation, save time and money and impress the client at the same time? Some firms whose focus is on the domestic market are successfully using UAVs to capture images of 022 RCIMAG.COM MAY 2017 defective roofs to show the client in online image portfolios. They see this as a great way to assist in building trust with a customer and therefore winning the work by showing them close up images of the issues at hand. With commercial UAVs, suitable cameras, gimbals and other paraphernalia being easily reachable for many firms at a couple of thousand pounds or less, what’s stopping the average roofing gang from turning into a budding Maverick and Goose? So far, so commercial, surely? Boon to the industry? Such is the level of interest in UAVs across industry that the Government recently undertook a pubic consultation on their commercial use, the results of which will be available shortly. There is no question, however, that technology such as UAV’s could be a boon to the industry. Moreover, should vocational qualifications be forthcoming in terms of flight and operations, the link between technology and construction could have a positive effect in the recruitment of school and college leavers to the industry. What can be perceived as a simple way of reducing risk and gaining a commercial advantage over one’s competitors can also be fraught with risk of its own however. In order to fly commercially (essentially any UAV activity in relation to the roofing industry) currently requires a licence from the Civil Aviation Authority, and compliance with the Air Navigation Order 2016. One specific area for operators to pay close attention to is the regulations surrounding the use of UAVs in “congested areas”. The order explains that as being “any area of a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes” – in other words, any area at all in a town or city. To fly commercially in areas where people and buildings are present requires specific CAA permission. Another issue is that the unit must remain within line of sight, unless it can be proved in other ways (spotters with radio for example) that safe flight is being adhered to. For multiple flights within a year, it may require the submission of a full operating manual and individual risk assessments direct to the CAA before permission is granted. Let’s not forget too that use of UAVs on a commercial basis also requires specific insurance, and proof to the CAA that the pilot has the required minimum technical competencies (assessed by one of the National Qualified Entities). The recent explosion in recreational use of drones has not gone unnoticed. Rumour has it that the CAA is becoming increasingly weary of recreational users drifting their small craft into controlled airspace, from airports to Royal houses, even Military installations. That same rumour mill has it that a favoured solution is for HSE to take up the mantle in terms of both future legislation and enforcement. Take careful note, roofing community. www.nfrc.co.uk National Federation of Roofing Contractors The Government recently undertook a public consultation on the commercial use of drones “Their use is causing ripples of a different kind across the construction industry as a whole, and sector-wise none more so than roofing” “What’s stopping the average roofing gang from turning into a budding Maverick and Goose?”


RCI May 2017
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