How can local councils use drone technology?

Last updated on

February 2, 2022


Local councils are responsible for delivering over 800 services, with duties ranging from waste management to social care. In fact, councils have a statutory liability to meet the needs and demands of individuals or communities. Under these responsibilities, council staff are required to not only deliver on their demands, but to also do so in the most cost-effective manner possible.

In this article, we will investigate how local councils can take advantage of drone technology to provide both competent and cost-efficient services.

Why is it important for councils to be cost-efficient?

Authorities are continually facing ruthless cuts, resulting in the need to find inventive ways to meet demands on a tight budget. From data obtained by Unison via the Freedom of Information act, it’s predicted that councils could face a record £3.09bn shortfall in 2022/23.

“Any further reduction would strip even more essential services to the bone or remove them completely” said a spokesperson from Unison.

Luckily, the cost of some services can potentially be scaled back by using UAS.

Do councils use drones?

Currently a very small quantity of councils have adopted and begun utilising drone technology, with numbers estimated to be under 25 out of the 333 in England.

Early adopters include Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) council who trialled a scheme in the summer of 2021 that aimed to tackle litter using the technology. Additionally, Surrey council have partnered with Amey to track fly-tipping in the local area.

In Scotland, several councils have partnered with a company called Viewpoint Films, for the aerial inspections of their property portfolios. This initiative began as part of the HEEPs programme set out by Scottish Housing Quality Standard. The company have surveyed over 600 houses by air, saving local authorities over £4.5 million.

Drone surveying consultancy

How can councils use drones?

With the vast array of services that local councils offer, the savings that come from using drone technology are not just related to just cost expenditure. Other improvements come include reducing the time taken for operations to be completed, as well as reduced risk to staff. Early evidence from UK authorities and other industries shows that drones can be implemented quickly to provide immediate benefits.

Here are some examples of how drones can be utilised:

Building/structural inspections

With the large portfolios that each council is responsible for, the cost of outsourcing jobs becomes extremely expensive. Not only do traditional surveys cost more in labour, but they also take a lot longer due to the necessity to erect/takedown scaffolding. By incorporating drones into building surveys, authorities could experience millions in savings whilst negating traditional health and safety hazards that are associated with building surveys.

Drone Thermal Roof Inspection

Site development/land survey

Drone technology can be used to identify and analyse potential sites for housing developments by using photogrammetry to create orthomosaics. Traditional field work requires teams to expend long manhours which, in turn, produce longer mission timelines and higher costs. Instead, you can expect data to be collected and processed up to 10 times faster, acquiring quicker deliverables and shorter project cycles.

Drone Survey Package

Transport management

Drones provide a viable solution for tracking congestion and planning/maintaining roads. Existing methods of traffic monitoring can be overcome by using drone technology due to its ease of use and ability to cover larger areas.

Operators can provide high resolution video streams in real-time to control centres. These livestreams can be used by on-the-ground personnel to aid their road monitoring, traffic activity analysis, identify and track individual vehicles. The data can also be used in post-event analysis using drone tech to optimise existing traffic count data and provide little disruption.


Local councils are responsible for a variety of enforcement activities including fire and public safety, planning, monitoring illegal camps, fly tipping, establishing boundary limits etc. By using drone technology, authorities can record the effects/damages of traveller groups and domestic disturbances to be used in court.

police drone

Coastal Management

Drones can be used to monitor & calculate rates of erosion of cliffs in coastal areas. This enables operators to determine the likelihood and impact of coastal landslides on the environment. By using such technology, organisations can collect repeatable data much faster whilst avoiding the risk of manually trekking along cliff faces.

Backlog, Pipeline, and the Cliff - pipeline management - Wainwright Insight

Best drones for local councils

DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced

The Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced is a compact drone with powerful sensors and zoom capabilities. Equip a DJI RTK module to the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced to achieve centimetre-level accuracy.

The drone has a high-resolution camera sensor, a radiometric thermal camera, which can supply a 640 x 512 px thermal resolution. It also features a 30Hz frame rate and allows ±2°C temperature measurement accuracy. Operators can also utilise the 48MP visual camera with 1/2″ CMOS sensor to collect high quality data.

It also comes with 3 attachments a standard. You’ll be able to lighten up the way in night operations or low light conditions using the spotlight, communicate with targets with pre-recorded or live clips using the speaker, or maintain visual line of sight on your aircraft during night ops using the beacon attachment

Phantom 4 RTK

If you’re in the market for an entry level drone designed with surveys and aerial mapping in mind, the DJI Phantom 4 RTK could be the drone for you. Built specifically for 3D mapping and surveying, the Phantom 4 RTK houses a 1′ CMOS 20mp camera to give you clear and detailed images.

The full integrated RTK module gives your images centimetre level positioning data for improved post processing, ensuring you get incredibly accurate 3D maps.

By using their knowledge of consumer drones, DJI aimed to make the Phantom 4 RTK as easy to fly as possible whilst providing highly accurate results that will change your operations.

DJI Matrice 300 RTK

If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, then look no further. Compatible with a wide variety of payloads, the DJI Matrice 300 RTK is one of the most versatile drones on the market.

The drone offers up to 55 minutes of flight time, advanced AI capabilities, 6 directional sensing & positioning, 15km transmission range and IP45 rating. It can also carry up to 3 payloads simultaneously, with a maximum weight of up to 2.7kg.

To reduce distractions for pilots, the M300 RTK offers a dual operator feature where the workload can be split between two pilots. The first operator can focus on piloting the drone, while the second is able to control the payload and collect data via a slave controller. This leads to the collection of more accurate data and reduce the risk of crashing the drone.

Additionally, the M300 RTK has AI features, such as smart-tracking (useful for public safety operations) and pin-point – allowing the pilot to mark a location that can be sent to a control desk. Just tap the object you want to follow on the screen, and pin-point automatically delivers its current coordinates.

DJI Matrice 300 RTK Drone

For more information on how you can use drones to cut costs and get more efficient results, get in contact with our sales executive for Public Sector, Danny Wilson.

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