Cost Comparison of utilising Drones for Aerial Surveys of Buildings & Towers


Project Summary Scope

This document was created from the output of a shared “Proof of Concept” case study undertaken by a large Scottish Local Authority in conjunction with a professional aerial drone company, (Turkey Red Media).

The objective of the project was to ascertain the effectiveness of utilising a Drone in supporting the initial survey work undertaken by the client’s property team.  Providing a safer and more enhanced service delivery model, and at the same time offering the potential for direct and indirect cost-savings.

Background to site survey and cost comparison


The proof of concept focused on one of the client sites,  the clients own surveyor was tasked with undertaking a site survey as part of a rolling Buildings programme which looks into the maintenance and up keep of all of the clients owned buildings.

In order to facilitate this work, the Surveyor would be required to either hire scaffolding or an elevated platform to enable him to get up close to the problems areas, as well as onto the roof of the building.


The building had several elevations that were difficult for the Surveyor to access from the ground by eye, or by using other means such as binoculars or zoom camera. The elevations included North, East and West elevations. The building also housed a string of courses (or cornicing) which the Surveyor identified as possible opportunities for the Drone to survey.

In addition to these issues, typical obstacles to completing this work include the façade, roof line and fancy tooth cornicing, all of which were difficult to access and view from the ground.



Cost Comparison

Option A: Hire of Elevated Platform


*Based on approximate figures from the clients Buildings Programme Team.


Option A is likely to take 4 days and at a cost of approximately £4,250.




Option B: Hire of Elevated Platform


**This cost was obtained from taking the average of three quotes supplied by three separate plant hire companies, all capable of utilising an elevated platform of reaching heights of 36 metres and includes the cost of an experienced operator.


Option B is likely to take 2 days and at a cost of approximately £1,670.


Option C: Drone / Drone


** This figure is based on one-time purchase, discounts can be applied for call off or a volume contract and can therefore be improved upon.


Option C is likely to take 0.3 days and a cost approximately of £508.25



Projected savings of using Drone / Drone


Comparisons between utilising a Drone and Option A (Scaffolding) would provide a financial saving of approximately £3,741.75, a saving of 88.1%.


Comparisons between utilising a Drone and Option B (Elevated Platform) would provide a financial saving of approximately £1,161.75, a saving of 69.6%.


Limitations of using Drone

The following limitations must be considered when contemplating the use of a Drone.

  • The Drone cannot fly above 400ft in height from the operator.
  • The Drone cannot fly within 50m metres of persons, structures or vessels not under the pilot’s control. (30m on take-off and landing).  (50m is regarded as a cylinder). These are standard CAA approvals; some companies may have reduced operating distances. For some urban sites, additional safety / ground personnel may be required to manage area around subject of the survey. Depending on location, temporary road or footpath closures may be required.
  • •The Drone cannot fly in rain or winds above 20 miles per hour.


Advantages of using a Drone

There are many advantages of utilising a drone in comparison to plant machinery, scaffolding or elevated platforms. There are a myriad of alternative uses for Drone’s, many of which are not included in the report.


It is important to note that not only can a Drone provide a far greater financial benefit under many circumstances, but they can also provide a greater flexibility in accessing difficult to reach places. Drones also have the potential to drastically reduce the amount of time taken to undertake a survey of inspection, or fast access in cases where emergency inspection is required. Utilising a drone can also offer safety benefits over those associated with personnel working at heights, utilising ladders, scaffolding or platforms.


A Drone can provide excellent resolution, be it still photography or high definition video. Other features such as live video feed from the aircraft allow the pilot and surveyor to see the view and direct the camera to areas of concern in real time. Geotagging of images with GPS data allows for accurate storage and referencing of imaging, as well as further processing if required.


Quick on site review of imaging can reduce the need for repeat surveys. Imaging can be used as part of tendering process for any works proposed, highlighting areas of concern or subject. The low cost of the deployment of drones for survey, can allow for the imaging it to be used after any works completion, as part of a quality control or audit process, (before, after or time-.