At Hutton + Rostron, specialist building surveys and comprehensive investigations are carried out using a range of different technologies to provide the best possible information and advice to our clients. With the emergence of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) technology and the development of increasingly sophisticated camera drones, our technical capabilities have been significantly enhanced.
We now routinely employ Drone Surveys to deliver safer, quicker and more accurate inspection results, with considerable efficiencies to be achieved for our clients. A recent Case Study shows H+R’s work to tackle dampness and decay in one of the oldest buildings in Glasgow.
Benefits of Drone Surveys
Traditional building defect reports and roof surveys rely on the use of ladders, scaffolding, platforms or aerial lifts to access hard-to-reach places. This comes with a raft of disadvantages in terms of time, cost and accuracy of data, as well as the obvious risks and dangers to both the building and personnel.
Drone Surveys offer a multitude of benefits compared with conventional surveying methods including:
- Accurate data gathering
Substantial improvements in camera drone technology in recent years mean that it is now possible to take high-quality aerial photographs and high-resolution video footage to inspect building elements with astonishing accuracy. We employ drones for 3D imaging to create highly detailed 2D and 3D drawings as well as very accurate computer reproductions to aid our investigations. Images can be captured from a wide array of angles and elevations that would not be possible with handheld cameras, while GPS functionality can help record before and after shots.
- Time and cost savings
A Drone Survey enables the inspection of tall building walls and roofs to be carried out much faster, and without incurring additional expenses associated with access equipment, manpower and time.
With the software taking autonomous control of the device to gather relevant building data, the impact of reducing the surveyor’s inspection time input can be significant. This can make aerial building surveys a superior, cost-effective option within the right framework.
- Protection of vulnerable buildings
Drone Surveys collect data without leaving any physical impact on the building in question. Inspections are carried out from the air, with no physical equipment necessary other than the remote-controlled drone itself. This has clear advantages for architectural conservation and building pathology investigations of unstable or failing structures, as well as delicate surfaces that are susceptible to further damage or collapse, particularly in the heritage sector.
- Improved personnel safety
Traditional building inspections of hazardous environments or high elevations and roofs always carry a small degree of risk, even when health & safety regulations for working at height are diligently complied with as a matter of course. Using a drone eliminates the need for surveyors to climb buildings, traverse unstable or slippery surfaces or face unexpected dangers, and they can easily reach blocked access areas that humans cannot.
- Minimum operational disruption
Using drone technology to inspect building elements or elevations of a private home, public building or commercial premises offers maximum convenience for all concerned. Compared to the deployment of conventional equipment for high-access surveys, a drone makes no mess, no noise and causes no obstruction. This means that day-to-day operations on the ground can carry on as normal, unaffected by any building inspection.
Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Surveys
In addition to making full use of drone technology, we also value non-destructive site investigation techniques such as Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), which can be used to map inaccessible or hidden voids within a property, detect buried utilities, map the position of reinforced concrete bars and other subsurface features.
GPR surveying uses radar pulses to image the subsurface, emitting safe, electromagnetic radiation (UHF/VHF) to detect signals from subsurface structures. It is an established geophysical technology and a non-intrusive, effective way to characterise the subsurface and investigate underground features.
Why should I use a Drone Survey?
UAV technology is typically much cheaper than erecting access equipment or hiring a helicopter. Our sophisticated, battery-powered camera drones are relatively quiet and can fly close to buildings, delivering highly accurate data collected from any number of hard-to-reach places, saving our clients time and money while reducing potential risks to the building or the team.
Are Drone Surveys suitable for historic buildings?
Aerial survey technology is ideal for listed and historic buildings since there is no physical contact with the building and therefore no possibility of causing damage. A Drone Survey can access steeples or towers, operate over water or in inaccessible locations, and deliver a complete report with high-resolution images and video to verify the condition and integrity of a historic building or ancient ruin.
Do you need to employ a licensed UAV operator?
For commercial work, survey drone operators must be registered pilots with CAA ‘permission for aerial work’. At H+R, all our drone pilots are CAA qualified for commercial flying. In the UK, all aircraft operating within UK airspace for commercial, aerial work must comply with CAA regulations. The drone and camera/sensor must typically have a combined weight of less than 20kg.
What can Ground Penetrating Radar detect?
This non-intrusive, non-destructive surveying method can be used effectively to locate a wide range of materials in the subsurface including metal, plastics, reinforced concrete, changes in ground strata and geological features, and voids. Most materials will be detected as long as there is enough of a difference in the electromagnetic property between the target material and the surrounding material.
How does Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) work?
This geophysical survey method uses pulses of electromagnetic radiation emitted into the subsurface to check for changes. Any findings are detected by a receiving antenna as electromagnetic energy is reflected back to the surface where the signal is recorded and the information captured on a radargram.