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Oxford City Council launches commercial drone service

Oxford City Council’s service delivery arm has announced drone-based services including roof and building surveying, land mapping and filming.

Introduced by the Oxford Direct Services (ODS), it is the first council-owned organisation to bring drone services in-house.

The ODS, the service delivery and commercial arm of Oxford City Council, is Civil Aviation Authority-licensed, approved to offer commercial services with qualified and insured pilots.

Oxford City Council says this is part of the “innovative approach” ODS has adopted since they were created in April, with all the ODS’s profits being used to fund public services in the community.

ODS will focus initially on surveying roofs of the 7,800 properties it maintains on behalf of the city council, aiming to save time, drive down costs and reduce the health and safety challenges.

Ben Strang, ODS’s project leader of 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.”

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.”

The drones offer a clean, environmentally friendly, relatively quiet and unobtrusive way of surveying compared to using scaffolding or motorised elevated platforms.

Commercial surveying, mapping, aerial photography and filming with be priced based on each customer’s specific requirements.

Simon Howick, Oxford Direct Services’ managing director, commented: “Hiring a drone firm to survey a roof costs between £300-£1000, with scaffolding also expensive and cumbersome.

“It made total sense to invest in the drone equipment, flight training and licensing and add this skillset to our portfolio.

“It will pay for itself within a year, we’ll save money for our main customer – Oxford City Council – with drones becoming an additional revenue stream given we can now offer local businesses and residents surveying, mapping, photography and filming services.”

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