Drones in Commercial Enterprise

Planning a Drone Capability for Business

How To Plan A Drone Capability For Your Business Operations

At UDT, we want to help our customers integrate drone solutions into their business successfully. It's important that you've thought about how and why UAVs will enhance your business operations. So we've created a guide to get you there; explore steps 1-6 and then click through to our UDT Commercial Enterprise training course for more information on how we can qualify you and your organisation to complete commercial compliance with the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

UDT Commercial Enterprise


WHAT – Are you surveying/monitoring a construction site or mapping your crop fields? This is a critical question as it will influence the entire operation – or which company you choose to sub-contract . It will affect factors such as:

• The Permission (PfCO) required to collect the data.
• The sensor used to collect the data.
• The platform used to carry the sensor.
• The people who conduct the operation.
• The processes in the operation will depend on the data collected.

WHERE – Is the location in a busy or remote area?

Completing a roof survey in a busy Congested Area on a regular basis will currently require a higher level of operator and Permission than a standard PfCO.

Can you or your operator legally collect the data?

Remote areas where 50 metres separation can be achieved OR a large site under control pose less of a problem.

HOW – Have you thought about the sensor and platform you will use to collect the data? Will this be a market-leading DJI multirotor drone, or do you require a bespoke fixed-wing drone?

WHO – Both the drone operation and the data collected will require the appropriate people and expertise.
• A new inexperienced drone operator / operation unlikely to be granted a high level permission – writing a safety case can be a difficult process.
• A drone generalist will not be a suitable person to sign off survey data as accurate, likewise for a roof survey.


Drones Can collect GB of data very quickly! 1-2 million plus data points in an hour, with a processing time from 2-36 hours.

• Inspection grade photos can be 100mb+. Who then interprets these images – the Drone Operator? Or the Inspection Engineer? How are the images transferred?
• Fixed Wing Mapping platforms can take 3000 images in one flight; this will require processing in specialist software such as Pix4d to produce ortho-mosaics and point clouds. This software is complex and will require training or a knowledgeable sub-contractor. Data can be exported in many formats .


• The Civil Aviation Authority is the UK’s independent specialist aviation regulator.
• Current drone regulation outlined in The Air Navigation Order 2016, however there will be changes coming in 2018.
• There are restrictions on current operations relating to Congested Areas (CA).
• Anything outside a standard PfCO requires an OSC Vol 3 or ‘exemption’, which can be achieved via consultants or training.

See UDT OSC Volume 3 training course for more detail (also integrated within UDT Commercial Enterprise course).

What if your operation doesn’t fit a standard PfCO? You will need to obtain your OSC Volume 3, which must be completely ‘owned’ by the applicant.

What does this mean? There is no one-size fits all OSC. Due to differing requests and aircraft, most applications are going to be different. This can be due to:
• Different aircraft systems.
• Different locations e.g. building sites, closed sets, public areas.
• Different company processes.

It’s important to note that each of these have their own safety requirements.

What about insurance? To obtain a PfCO, you must have compliant insurance.

• As per the Specialist Aviation Policy, even large organisations currently require a separate drone policy, as specified in EC Regulation 785/2004.

• Some organisations encounter delays, therefore this cannot be overlooked as a crucial and important step in gaining the sought after permissions.


IN-HOUSE – More organisations are using this option as a way of having full control over their drone operations.
• Expertise in-house, you have an Accountable Manager onsite.
• Complete control over operation, data collection and processing, as a result data quality is usually higher.
• Control of training & standards.
• Initial costs are higher; equipment, OSC, software.
• Recruitment may be required for drone pilots & other staff.
• Complexities involved with setting up an operation.
• Keeping up-to-date with changes to regulation.

SUB-CONTRACTOR – There are over 3000+ companies offering external drone solutions, however not all of these may be suitable for your business.
• Immediate solution from organisations that already have varying capabilities.
• Cost and process of drone and sensor capability is outsourced.
• Initial costs are lower and less personal risk is taken.
• No capability is retained internally.
• Data collectors often not subject-matter experts, but generalists.
• Running a procurement process can be lengthy & expensive.
• On-demand availability may not always be possible.
• Costs are higher for medium-long term use.

HYBRID – Large organisations have used this model to develop baseline capability and augment with drone industry experts/operators.
• Expertise is developed in-house.
• You can grow your drone capability over time.
• Contract in specialist services that require expensive equipment.
• Requires on-going management of contractors and operation of an in-house capability.
• There are limited number of people currently in the industry who could manage both sides of such an operation.


Costings can be brought back to 3 key factors:  PEOPLE – PROCESS – PLATFORM.

These 3 factors will determine costs and which combination will allow you to collect the data you want. In-house, sub-contract and hybrid all have different combinations that incur different costs from the following:

People: Drone Operator Cost + SME.
Process: Mapping Software, Operation Management, OSC.
Platform: Multirotor/Fixed Wing? Right tool for the job.


Due to the fast-growing nature of the industry, you can expect regular updates and changes to the rules by regulatory bodies like the UK CAA and the EASA. Organisations such as the British Standards Institution (BSI) and the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) are also starting to bring in their own R&Rs that cover:

• Defining best practices for training
• Operating
• Manufacture

Capability planning will have to be able to adapt to the changing landscape of the industry.

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