On 8th March 2016, Adrian Wilkinson, Managing Director and UAV Pilot at QuarryDesign gave a highly visual presentation on “Drones, the law and the benefits.
The presentation began with traditional geological and geotechnical survey methods and why, following the first successful prosecution of a small geotechnical consultancy under the Corporate Manslaughter Law, QuarryDesign looked at what newly emerging technologies could be used to remove their geologists and surveyors from potentially hazardous situations. This culminated in them investing in a long-range high-resolution LiDAR scanner and a Drone that collects point-cloud data. Their early adoption of these technologies won them a prestigious “Joint Runner-up” in the Engineering Initiatives category of the 2013 MPA Safety Awards.
Adrian went on to explain what point-clouds surveys were and how point-clouds are obtained by LiDAR and photogrammetry. A history of aerial photogrammetry and military drone use followed with a discussion on how the miniaturisation of equipment was enabling the costs to fall to a level that enabled companies such as QuarryDesign to adopt the technology. In a field dominated by anachronisms, Adrian explained how Drones should correctly be referred to UAV’s, UAS’s, RPAS’s.
With the number of bad-news drone stories in the press, Adrian showed examples of what was and what was not permissible under the CAA rules for flying drones and took the audience through the legal requirements, that both the Operating Company and their Pilots must obtain to fly drones commercially. He also explained that not all drone surveys will be the same and that accuracy in the resultant survey model is dependent on the stability in the air of the UAV being used, the way the camera captures the photographs (including active gimbals keeping the camera looking vertically down, the lens quality and the sensor size), the location and number of ground control markers, what software is used and whether the surveyor understands the actual processes involved.
The second half of the presentation showed several case examples of where both LIDAR and UAV photogrammetrically derived point-clouds had been obtained and interpreted from a wide range of UK quarries. Examples included obtaining surveys of difficult to access areas (silt lagoons and large hot stockpiles), a detailed survey of an archaeological feature for Natural England in a quarry extension, examples of remote geological and geotechnical mapping of quarry faces (joint sets, identification of thin weak clay bands, planar and wedge failure analyses and break-back distance calculations and the production of accurate cross sections for rock-fall assessments). He also presented surveys of sink-holes, coastal erosion and videos of detailed quarry face inspections and close-up fixed processing plant (screening house) inspections.
He ended his presentation with three examples of huge surveys of various parts of the east side of Gibraltar, of which the last survey required MoD and CAA approval to extend their permitted flight limits from the legal limits presented earlier in the presentation.
On behalf of the members, branch chairman Gordon Dick led the vote of thanks to Adrian for his excellent presentation.