As the commercial UAV industry continues to develop new applications at an unstoppable rate, more and more enterprises are turning to drone technology to resolve problems within their businesses.
Instead of relying on outsourced UAV operators, there is now a growing move towards bringing drone capabilities in-house.
One of the companies that is currently operating its own UAV team is water supply and treatment utility company Thames Water.
The company first integrated drones into its business in 2014 through a chance encounter. Four years ago, Thames Water’s risk management specialist, and now UAV pilot, Jon Lorimer, offered to save his managers the cost and effort of a helicopter-based inspection, saying that he could do the inspection for free with his UAV and GoPro.
Lorimer stated that he would be able to do the aerial inspection for nothing, as he had a drone at home with a GoPro. “My boss was stood behind me and said, ‘go on then’ I did and subsequently produced the results”.
“My boss was impressed, as was one of the directors, and he told me to ‘go and buy a drone’. I did and haven’t looked back since.
The company, which now has two fully-licensed commercial drone pilots, owns its own fleet of drones to undertake its asset management, including leak detection.
Lorimer explained that, using thermal imaging technology, the company conducted trials in leak detection. During its trial period the UAV was able to identify two leaks, both within 30 seconds of being in the air.
While the organisation manages its own fleet of UAVs, all of Thames Water’s drone operations are managed by Lorimer and his colleague, Simon Tuke. Lorimer noted that in order for the team, which became a two-man operation six months ago, to progress the company’s use of drones, it would need to expand its drone management team.
He added: “Currently, there are only two of us qualified in the business but as people see the value of the UAV,s and their applications, I suspect the team will expand. We don’t know when, but we’re sure in the future it’s going to happen.”