How council’s plan to use drones to check on condition of roofs in Norwich failed to take off

Norwich city centre from air. Picture from 'Norfolk Churches From The Air', by Mike Page and Pauline

Norwich city centre from air. Picture from 'Norfolk Churches From The Air', by Mike Page and Pauline Young. - Credit: Archant

An army of flying robots was lined up to collect information for Norwich City Council.

A drone in flight. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

A drone in flight. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire - Credit: PA

It sounds more pie-in-the-sky than eye-in-the-sky – a touch HG Wells, perhaps? But the council really did consider recruiting drones to check on the condition of council flat roofs.

The scheme never took off, though, because of civil aviation legislation and privacy laws.

Instead, the council may have to resort to sticking a camera to a pole, attached to a vehicle, in order to monitor the roofs.

The fact that the council had looked into the possibility of the drones emerged at a recent meeting, where Green councillor Tim Jones raised concerns over problems with rainwater and vegetation causing flooding at a flat in Heigham Grove.

Mr Jones said: 'The city council has confirmed that there are no regular inspections of the flat roofs on council flats in Heigham Grove.

'This is because expensive scaffolding is required in order to send up contractors to inspect the roofs.

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'Instead, the council undertakes remedial work to the roofs when problems become apparent.'

He said a flat had been flooded after rainwater and vegetation collected on one of the roofs and asked if there was a possibility of hiring drones to scrutinise the state of the roofs.

Gail Harris, cabinet member for council housing, said: 'I am always alive to better ways of doing things and providing value for money, so we have already investigated the use of a drone with the sole intention of inspecting communal and multi-storey roofs.

'However, because of civil aviation legislation and privacy laws in populated areas, it is not possible to use a drone for this purpose.

'We are, however, looking into an alternative method whereby a camera is attached to a telescopic pole attached to a vehicle and records images only when above occupied dwellings.'

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