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5 top-tips to spot a good aerial survey service

Updated: Jan 31

With the use of unmanned aircraft rising in the UK, we are seeing many 'rogue' surveys being undertaken. Here at SUMO we utilise not only innovative equipment but fully qualified and experienced unmanned drone aircraft pilots such as SUMO Aerial-Cam’s Pilot Adam Stanford.

As with any survey that's completed incorrectly or not to the client’s requirements, there are both significant cost and time implications. Additionally in the case of an aerial survey, it can also incur legal action due to flying in restricted air space, without the correct certification and more.

SUMO's Aerial-Cam Pilot Adam Stanford has a long-standing industry reputation. Having started his career as an Archaeological photographer he soon took to the skies and hasn't looked down. His expertise sees him complete projects in even the most restricted air spaces due to his certifications.

We asked Adam to give us his top tips for spotting a good survey and feeling confident in commissioning one with a survey provider:

An interview with Adam Stanford, Director of Aerial-Cam Ltd. Discussing the use of UAVs/Drones for filming archaeology sites and the requirement for operators and clients to ensure work is carried out legally and with the right level of insurance.

1. Ask for their PFCO

PFCO stands for permission for commercial operation and is a form of licence renewed annually by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It is a legal document required by all commercial unmanned aircraft pilots in the UK. Any quality aerial survey provider will have a PFCO and don't be afraid to ask to see it and check if it's in date. You can also verify the pilot's PFCO via the CAA's website, as there is a list of permissioned operators.

2. Insurance

It’s always worth asking that the operator you plan on using has the correct insurance for use of commercial UAV/Drone and that they have the appropriate level of cover: between £5m-£10m. Rogue UAV/Drone operators without PFCO are unable to obtain appropriate insurance and any level of cover would not be valid for commercial operation. As well as this, you should note that your own insurance will normally not cover UAV/Drone operations, so even if they are a volunteer doing a free survey they will still need their own appropriate level of cover.

3. Not a toy

It’s extremely easy to get your hands-on UAV/ Drones nowadays. However, an easy and big mistake to make, is not asking what equipment is being used by your survey provider. A quality aerial-pilot will be using a professional aircraft which carries professional grade sensors. These professional aircraft will be fitted with appropriate fail-safe and safety features, built in - they are extremely different to toy UAV/Drones which can be purchased anywhere.

4. Experience

Ideally, you should be asking if your chosen surveyor has sufficient experience to carry out the task; if they are a qualified pilot or an apprentice in training. Only fully qualified pilots can operate under a PFCO.

SUMO Aerial-Cam has been operational since 2006 and has years of logged UAV/Drone flight time, as well as a deep understanding of the survey methods involved. SUMO Aerial-Cam’s Pilot Adam Stanford says that asking questions about experience is key and you shouldn't shy away from these. Any decent survey professional will be glad to answer your queries.

5. Risk Analysis

Finally, always check that your operator will carry out a risk assessment and will put procedures in place to ensure risks are reduced and surveys can be carried out within the regulations set by the CAA. This may include using signage, marshals, contacting towers at nearby airfields, contacting police and councils if in urban areas and obtaining land owner permissions.

SUMO Aerial-Cam

Following these tips will ensure that you get the best out of your aerial survey, which can produce extraordinary results unavailable by any other method.

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