From the Feet on the Ground to the Eyes in the Sky: The Airspace Growth Programme

Landowners and Drones – The Problem

Currently in the UK there is a lack of conversation between landowners and drone pilots. Landowners are concerned about drone flying (particularly rogue flights) on their land, while pilots often do not know they need permission to take-off, land and overfly on certain areas. 

Do you know how many landowners and pilots there are in the United Kingdom?

There are… 220,000 drone pilots and 56 million landowners (CLICK HERE)!! Consequently, getting  both parties to communicate is a humongous mission!


Could you class us as the ‘modern day’ hero?

Could you class us as the ‘modern day’ hero?

Airspace Growth Programme – The Solution 

…DronePrep to the rescue! 

We aim to bridge this divide between landowners and drone pilots to create a safe and fully integrated airspace. The tool to achieve this is The Airspace Growth Programme. 

So what actually is the Airspace Growth Programme? We are striving to give landowners a way of communicating  conditions to allow access of their airspace directly above their land. Once decided (with our help) on what and where they are happy for drone use, we add it to our online platform for all members and drone pilots to see! 

This is growing more important everyday. Each location onboarded onto the DronePrep platform unlocks the potential for incredible and innovative projects including future medical drone deliveries, search and rescue efforts and operational and R&D testing. 

A well communicated Drone Access Policy opens up huge possibilities for both landowners and drone pilots. It can allow for fun flights for the drone community  to obtain beautiful imagery of which can be shared with the general public to help market landowners incredible properties which deserve to be seen.

How to Make Tomorrow, Today – What Next 

To make the Airspace Growth Programme thrive, we need your help. If you know of any large landowners including farms and stately homes you can refer them to us to put on our platform. If you register to be a member (CLICK HERE) you can receive up to £25 for every successful land referral and become a Community Hero!  What more is there to know? GO GO GO!!

Fit to Fly: University of Worcester Prepared me for a Career in UAV’s

Calibration : Where it all Started


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A real student lead course, Geography at the University of Worcester puts you first! Due to the lecturers having a real passion for what they teach it allowed me to find my niche – Drones. This was kick-started from one Phantom 4 Pro demonstration in a Level 4 module of my undergraduate degree.

Take-off : How it Grew

Knowing that my passion lay with drones, I actively sought for as much experience as possible.

Learning and Teaching Project

Through a competitive selection process I was chosen to participate in a funded project to aid future students. The project involved travelling to the Swiss Alps to collect drone imagery to be used in practical classes in Level 5 modules. Behind the scenes work for this required: identification of new and suitable sites within the Arolla Valley, obtaining  baseline data at each site including the distribution and surveying of GCPs and IVPs with a  as well as being a co-pilot for numerous Phantom 4 Pro with onboard RTK flights!

Fieldwork Assistance

If, when and how I could participate in drone fieldwork, I did. 

This began with assistance on Masters and PhD students projects. For this I undertook tasks such as laying and surveying GCPs with the Trimble R10 GNSS, setting up and calibrating the drone before flight, experience with the DJI Go App and undertaking supervised flights.


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From this my fieldwork experience took off- the most memorable being in the Arolla Valley 2020. Myself and two fellow students on my course aided Senior Professor Ian Maddock in his study of using a Phantom 4 Pro with onboard RTK to measure snow depth. Although the week-long excursion involved a lot of perseverance; walking through 2m snow with non-waterproof boots (not my best idea) and thinking on the spot with the kit constantly failing due to the extremely cold temperatures,  it was a lot of fun! I was able to get some incredible flying experience in a totally new environment with people that shared the same passion, this made it all worthwhile. 

Student Academic Partnership 

Student Academic Partnerships involve a close relationship between lecturers and students to create a project beneficial to all.  Our project involved a practical session in the form of a powerpoint, interactive exercises and quizzes to equip undergraduate Geography students with the

knowledge to pass the CAA Drone Safe Drone Code test. Noting the importance of this, we sought to make the practical as fun and inclusive as possible, hoping these key practices stay in their minds for future flights! Due to the current COVID-19 crises the practical has not been implemented, however, I look forward to hearing about its potential success in upcoming years.

Dissertation

Your independent study is all about expressing yourself in your field of expertise- for myself this was a no brainer.  My project was titled: Assessing the effectiveness of drone imagery in identifying Channel Geomorphic Units. Undertaken upon a 200m sinuous reach of the River Teme, I conducted supervised flight with a Phantom 4 Pro using a flight plan I generated myself through the DJI Go App. Although this sounds smooth sailing… as with all flights unexpected problems can arise. The growing issue with shared airspace was apparent when I had to quickly move the university drone out of the way of an oncoming military helicopter. Avoiding any near-misses and on return to the office I was able to freely process my dataset of 720 photos in Agisoft Metashape Pro creating fully referenced and high quality orthophotos and DEMs.

Work Placement

A very big step in my UAV career progression  was my work placement at Geodime. The placement allowed me to transfer my educational knowledge of UAVs into a working context- meeting real and tight deadlines. My role at Geodime was ‘ Assistant Pilot and Photogrammetrist which saw me working closely with large scale companies such as Hanson, to generate their monthly stock surveys. To achieve this I performed supervised drone flights and processed any datasets through complex softwares such as Klau.

 


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Flight: My Next Steps 

Since graduating from the University of Worcester in Summer 2020, I wanted to turn my experience with UAVs into a career. Personally, I couldn’t have found anywhere better than DronePrep to start. It is clear we share the same passions, the want to be a part of this ever changing discipline by helping their integration both safely and effectively into modern society. I look forward to my part in this mammoth task, opening up the airspace bringing landowners and the drone community together.

Kiplin Hall – Drone Access Policy

Kiplin Hall is currently operating an ad hoc Drone Access Policy during CV19 due but they are very much open to welcoming flying requests and ideas.

The new Drone Access Policy will be published later this month but in the meantime please do reach out to support@droneprep.uk with any flying requests or ideas for Kiplin Hall to consider including in their Drone Access Policy.

Within the Kiplin Hall Drone Access Policy we are currently exploring a number of exciting ideas with the Kiplin Hall team to help the Drone Community fly whilst also helping Kiplin Hall Estate benefit from opening up parts of their estate for Drone use at different times.

 

  • At present we are defining Kiplin Hall’s Drone Access Policy to include:
  • A dedicated Flying Field for Hobbyists on the Estate away from Hall visitors
  • Out of Hours Flying Experiences
  • Ways for Pilots share their wonderful images of the Hall online with Kiplin Hall staff, interest groups and fans
  • How it might be possible to include Drone Flying as a perk of Kiplin Hall membership
  • Preparatory work to accommodate Flying Schools and Residentials (utilising accommodation/amenities on site)
  • Preparatory work at Kiplin Hall (and with Kiplin Hall’s neighbours) to potentially accommodate Drone Enterprise R&D briefs and/or larger flying envelopes for Drone Users
  • Ways to promote Kiplin Hall at a film/tv location.

Bristol City Council – Case Study

How DronePrep can support the Film Industry and help unlock new sites.

As we all stayed at home, protected the NHS and saved lives during lockdown; within our household this saw us spend a lot more time (than usual) in front the television, In embracing this change to the norm I can now admit this actually spurred a few new family games. The favourite of which soon became ‘Guess the Location’

 ‘Guess the Location’ …..A game where we flicked channels until we found a drone clip and then all had to shout out where we thought the shot had been taken.

With ample time reflect on wins and losses; it was amazing to discover how quite so how many mainstream programmes now relied on PfCO Pilots to visually position documentaries, housing shows, news items, dramas etc and with an engaged eye it was also wonderful to see some of our DronePrep community pilots listed in programme credits or see little hints of what was to come on all of your social media feeds.


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It shouldn’t have come as a surprise but locations that we all shouted about in our house over and over during this period were in Bristol. After a fashion, shouting ‘Bristol’ became a safe early call tactic. It could win the entire ‘Guess the location game’ for whoever called it early.

During the game the glorious surrounds of Ashton Court, Arnos Vale Cemetery and Queen Square all featured heavily especially in the BBC’s adaptation of the Agatha Christie Novel ‘ The Pale Horse’ but on catch up there was Bristol again in Poldark, The Trial of Christine Keeler and His Dark Materials. 

There was also the delightful 4 parter ‘a House through time presented by David Olusoga’ which showed some truly remarkable aerial shots of the city – as week by week the residents of an 18th-century house in Bristol, uncovering stories of piracy, an abandoned baby, a notorious political writer and a runaway slave.

I did however have a rather unfair advantage; some of the sites where these shots had been taken had been sourced by the Bristol Film Office with the help of the BETA version of the DronePrep Platform. Needless to say I am reigning champion of Guess the Location.

 


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Sourcing New Film Locations & Opening up Locations for all

Setting the clock back to the Summer of 2019 one of the earliest consultation exercises and collaborations DronePrep instigated included the good folk at Ordnance Survey, HM Land Registry, Geovation, Engine Shed and the Bristol Film Office.

I remember vividly our first day with the Film Office Manager as we explored together how we could harness the first interaction of the DronePrep platform we were building to help the Film Office and the Council communicate the right messages to different groups about drone use. 

At the time the Film Office recommended 20 sites within Bristol, owned by Bristol City Council, which it could be possible for production companies to utilise to shoot some amazing aerial vistas of the City.

On our first crunch of Bristol City Council land data within the DronePrep platform we discovered that the Council owned over 8,000 plots of land which were deemed large enough to facilitate drone flight. This was beyond the Film Office’s expectations and from the their perspective there were a number of brilliant unexpected sites on this list which would be perfect for film production companies. 

Together we managed to find new, never flown before sites. near Clifton and Brunel’s Iconic Suspension Bridge as well as new sites in Avonmouth, the City Centre and, obscurely, we even found places outside of Bristol which were owned by the Council such as Seaside Piers and Historic Homes.

As talks progressed we also realised that some of Bristol’s very large greenspaces, were so large, that they could be deemed as non-congested. It is typical for Urban Council’s to restrict all flying to hobbyists due to the 150m congested area rule but using DronePrep data we realised we could open up large sites for responsible use and thus help meet the latent demand for flying whilst helping to inform the community of where they can and cannot fly in Bristol.

Next Steps

Since we’ve launched the BETA version of DronePrep publicly last month we have had a number of enquiries for drone flights in Bristol. Recently some of our member community have collaborated with the Bristol Film Office to cover the Luke Jerram’s Flying Orchestra event from DronePrep locations and we’ve engaged with some more iconic locations within the City. We will bring your further news on those soon.

Kiplin Hall – Case Study

How Stately Home Drone Access Policies can open up new possibilities for Drone Pilots and Estate Managers.

Nestled between the North Yorkshire Moors and the Yorkshire Dales lies a little piece Englands Heritage, Kiplin Hall. 

Avid DronePrep fans will know that Kiplin Hall have been collaborating as one of our early adopter partners for some time and their innovative team can be credited with both their welcoming approach to drone pilots but also for embracing, and tapping into the growing Drone tourism market, in the UK.

 

 

The Hall, a fine example of Jacobian architecture and landscaped grounds, has stood proud for nearly 400 years and has many stories locked within its walls which the volunteers at Kiplin gamely share with delight on opening days.

Whilst many already flock to Kiplin Hall to engage with state-side ancestral links to Maryland (in the USA), to learn about the English Civil War or to learn about the how the Hall was saved and restored to is former glory by the team; the Not for Profit company which has the responsibility of maintaining and enhancing this national treasure have also innovated and diversified to ensure that visitor gate receipts can keep this grand old building relevant and accessible to all.

Bar a couple of exceptions Drones Flying for hobbyists is not yet permitted on National Trust or English Heritage sites however there are 1,600 independently owned Stately Homes which can made an independent decision on their Drone Access Policy. 

Kiplin Hall is amongst one of the first UK Stately Homes to explore the value of implementing and communicating a Drone Access Policy to enhance opportunities for their estate and tackle some of the risks presented by rogue drone use.

DronePrep have been working with Ordnance Survey, HM Land Registry, BetaDen and many others to to help pilots answer the question ‘Where can I fly my drone’ we’ve done this by mapping these constraints in the DronePrep map.

At the same time we are helping landowners (of all kinds) and conservation agencies understand and communicate what is, and isn’t acceptable, from their land via the drone access policies listed on our platform.

In many cases a balance can be struck which encourages opportunity for all through responsible flight.


In the last two years the DronePrep team have undertaken extensive research and consultation with both Drone Pilots and Landowners to help us understand more what could be done to open up opportunities for both groups. 

What we found –  Pilots

Quote ‘Pilots love Stately Homes and would follow a Drone Access Policy if it is visible and communicated to them effectively.’ 

There are 200,000 Hobbyist Drone Pilots in the UK. From the pilot’s perspective it is a rewarding hobby but knowing where you can, and can’t fly, historically has been a challenge.

There a number or interactions in low-level airspace to consider including urban area restrictions, bylaws, landowner permissions, SSSIs considerations which all need to navigated to fly legally, safely and compliantly. 

Stately Homes are typically set in spacious grounds and in theory many Stately Home locations offer the space to separate out different users to accommodate responsible drone flight and to indentify suitable flight paths away from other constraints. 

Like with other hobbies (such as photography, travel writing and heritage/history touring) drone pilots already tend to fall into these well established hobby and tourist groups and they essentially want access to the most celebrated buildings and landscapes in the UK to supplement their existing interest with their new drone hobby knowing that there imagery could help raise awareness, and showcase, where these beautiful places are to inspire others. 


What we found – Landowners

Stately Home / Estate owners have often reported a negative experience from a drone user that had flown over their estate without permission but also had more positive experiences from PfCO and good news outcomes from drone pilots who engaged directly.. 

When consulting with landowners we found consistency the following themes 

  • PfCO pilots had helped Stately Homes with marketing and maintenance jobs

  • Rogue / unplanned drone activity overhead attracted safety concern/privacy/nuisance complaints from paying guests, 

  • Rogue / unplanned drone activity overhead spooked livestock or impacted protected wildlife species

  • Rogue / unplanned drone activity caused anxiety – many landowners linked rogue drone use to rural crime events on the Estate or shared concerns about their liability in the event of a collision with building or person.

  • Landowners were seemingly unaware that the majority of the 200,000 strong Drone Hobbyist market were responsible and would adhere to Drone Access Policies if it was made visible to them

  • Landowners tend not to publicise their Drone Access Policy to the Drone Community

  • Landowners were unaware that Drone Access Policies could be designed to facilitate and integrate flying by responsible hobby drone pilots within their Estates

  • Stately Home Owners were largely unaware of the value of #DroneTourism and that Responsible Drone Pilots also tended to belong to the same audiences they wanted to attract to their premises 

  • Stately Home Owners were largely unaware that opportunities existed to supplement Estate Income via accommodating Drone Training, Drone Events, Commercial Drone Partnerships and Drone R&D projects.


Kiplin Hall

Kiplin Hall is currently operating an ad hoc Drone Access Policy during CV19 due but they are very much open to welcoming flying requests and ideas.  

The new Drone Access Policy will be published later this month but in the meantime please do reach out to support@droneprep.uk with any flying requests or ideas for Kiplin Hall to consider including in their Drone Access Policy.

Within the Kiplin Hall Drone Access Policy we are currently exploring a number of exciting ideas with the Kiplin Hall team to help the Drone Community fly whilst also helping Kiplin Hall Estate benefit from opening up parts of their estate for Drone use at different times.

You can view the full policy from The DronePrep Map.


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