1. What is a drone?
There are many names for the type of aircraft we fly – unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), unmanned aerial system (UAS), remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS), small unmanned aerial system (SUAS) and the now CAA preferred small unmanned aircraft (SUA) to name a few. They can be fixed wing aeroplanes, helicopter or multi-rotor aircraft, are controlled from the ground and are used to capture data.
We prefer to call them drones.
2. What does the law say about drones?
In the UK, drones must be operated in accordance with the law, whether they are being used for recreation or commercial purposes. If operating commercially a Permit for Commercial Operation (PfCO) must be obtained from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
To operate within the law all drone flights must take place within line of sight of the pilot which in practice is no further than 500 metres, but may be less if you are flying a small aircraft. No flight must exceed 400 feet in altitude – this may bring you into conflict with manned aviation and is illegal.
Normally you are not permitted to fly within 50 meters of people, vehicles or structures unless they are under your control. You are not permitted to fly a drone within 150 metres of a built up area.
You are also not permitted to fly a drone within the Flight Restriction Zone of airports without permission from Air Traffic Control. If you are wanting to fly within 5km of an airport you are probably in this zone.
For more information read the Drone Code from the CAA
3. What sort of drones do you fly?
We fly multi-rotor and fixed wing aircraft. Depending on the payload, we use quadcoptors, hexacoptors and heavy lift octocoptors as well as aeroplane like drones. All of them have capability to transmit data and/or video feeds back to the ground in real time.
4. What sort of weather can you fly in?
All of our drones can fly in winds of up to 25 mph. Some of our drones can fly in light drizzle or mist, but this limits the quality of the data that can be captured.
In the UK, temperature is rarely an issue, with a maximum operating temperature of 50°c and a minimum of -10°c. Flying when it’s cold reduces the flight time and results in frozen fingers!
5. How long can you stay in the air for?
The short answer is anywhere between 15 minutes and about an hour. This is dependent on the temperature, wind speed, payload weight and aircraft type. Most tasks can be achieved easily in this time – if not, it takes seconds to land, change the battery and be airborne again.
6. How fast do your drones fly?
Our drones can fly at up to 50mph but we rarely need this speed. Most of our data collection is carried out at much slower speeds, quite often in the hover. The speed tends to be used to quickly reach a location.
7. How high can your drones fly?
Essentially they can keep on going up either until the battery runs out or the air becomes too thin to support flight – from sea level the battery would probably run out at around 10,000 feet and the absolute ceiling would be somewhere around 19,000ft.
This is all theoretical of course, as any flight taking place in the UK that is higher than 400ft is illegal unless you have special permission. The only limits on how low we can fly is our pilot’s ability and the imperative of achieving the mission safely.
Most of our data tends to be best captured between 100ft and 200ft as this gives the best balance between resolution and coverage.
8. How far can your drones fly?
Our drones can fly up to 3.5km and remain in control, however the law in the UK requires that the drone remains within line of sight of the pilot at all times, which is limited to a maximum of 500m. This still means that we can cover an area 1km across from a single take off point. We hold exemptions from the CAA that allows us to fly up to 1500m from the pilot if certain conditions are met.
9. What data can you capture?
We have access to a range of sensors. Our work is conducted in high definition stills and video, 4k super high resolution video, infrared thermal imaging, near infrared, multi-spectral and LIDAR. This supports a wide range of applications.
We are also researching the use of magnetometers, RFID scanners and IMSI sniffers. If you have a task in mind that requires the use of a specialist sensor that is not part of our current offering, our technical team can help get your project off the ground.
10. Can you fly indoors?
It is possible to fly indoors and it is a test of pilot skill. Whilst indoor flight is not restricted by the weather, or the CAA regulations all flights must still be conducted safely and without endangering people or property.