Oxford City Council creates in-house division for commercial drone services


Oxford Direct Services (ODS), the service delivery and commercial arm of Oxford City Council, has announced it will start to provide drone-based services.

ODS believes this is the first time a council owned organisation has brought drone services in-house, and says it hopes the initiative will show an innovative approach to generating revenue.

Oxford City Council created the wholly owned company in April 2018, which will now use drones to carry out roof and building surveying tasks, land mapping, aerial photography and filming.

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ODS is CAA approved to offer commercial services with qualified and insured pilots.

ODS is set to operate fully in accordance with best practice and GDPR rules and regulations in relation to permission to fly, safety and the privacy of residents.

Initially, operations will focus on surveying the roofs of 7,800 properties it maintains on behalf of Oxford City Council and expects the use of drones to save time, drive down costs and reduce the health and safety challenges.

Ben Strang, project leader for drone services, said: “I was a felt roofer for 15 years.  If you’re working on low to high rise housing blocks to identify, for example, pest entry points or find roof leaks, putting up scaffolding is at best a very hit and miss process. Using a drone resolves this and helps us pinpoint exactly where we need to work so that we can do first time fixes and enhance efficiency.”

All drone operators need the permission of the individual landowner to fly over their land. In the Oxford area, drone services can be delivered quickly as ODS is already authorised by the council to do this.

Strang added: “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 has invested in an off-the-shelf DJI Phantom 4 Advanced quadcopter drone for the operations.

It offers up to 30 minutes flight time per battery and comes with dual-band satellite positioning, five vision sensors for obstacle detection and is equipped with an one inch 20 Mega Pixel camera capable of shooting 4K super HD video and stills.

All ODS’ profits will be used to fund public services in the community.

Tags : ODSOxford City Council
Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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