For one of our most recent and more challenging projects, we were commissioned by another drone operator to acquire some photos and video footage for a client promotion. Due to our proximity and knowledge of the area chosen for filming, it made sense to use a local business such as ours rather than investing additional time and subsequent cost in taking on the project directly.
The area around the Trafford Centre in Manchester is dynamic, and can be extremely busy with vehicles and people. Add to that the fact that it sits inside the Flight Restriction Zone of Barton Aerodrome, and just a few dozen metres East of the extremely busy M60 motorway then as you can imagine it makes for a real can of worms so to speak. Barton is a very active airfield servicing a number of flight training schools, private as well as commercial aircraft, and regular military visitors, so it was essential that we worked together to ensure that we were able to obtain the shots we needed whilst not posing any kind of risk or hindrance to airfield traffic.
My business partner and I are both professional fixed wing aircraft pilots and undertook our initial early flight training at Barton aerodrome so we were already a known quantity when we sought permission to operate in the area. Permission was granted to operate up to a height of 200 feet and at specific times slots during the day. The early forecast looked a little breezy but initially within limits for the planned day, but when we arrived and spoke to the airfield for a current weather brief, we were advised that a high wind warning was in force. Just as was a regular occurrence during our flight training days, the weather had the last say and any drone flying was canned for the day.
The weather backup day was much better, light winds, good spells of sun and was quite warm. Just the kind of weather we want when flying our drones.
The area was already busy when we arrived and although we had done an extensive pre-site risk assessment, it was essential that a detailed dynamic risk assessment was performed and continued throughout the day.
The first thing to do was to secure a safe take off and landing location that we could fully control, and that allowed us to operate fully within the the restrictions of our CAA permission. That was half of the battle really because with so much movement of people and vehicles, if we could not guarantee a secure and safe location to operate from, we just wouldn’t have been able to continue.
Once we had that location secured then it was time to look for aerial locations to operate the drones ensuring that in the event of a malfunction any risk to people or property was lower than that already set out in our risk assessment. It’s quite surprising that even in busy and congested areas there is usually somewhere to safely operate from. Maybe the fact that in my light aircraft days, spending lots of time looking for safe places to land when doing practice forced landings has helped. To add to the safety aspect when using one of our Matrice M210 Drones, we installed our Parazero Drone Safety System which ensures that if after an equipment failure a controlled landing can not be assured, then the system deploys a ballistic parachute lowering the drone to the ground with minimal impact energy. With these measures in place we were confident we had left very little if anything to chance.
The rest of the day, although hard work was good fun and rewarding.
Considering the fact that we had to interrupt our operations due a Police Helicopter operating at low level, then followed later but two military Apache Gunships, we had a very successful day. Although we couldn’t get some of the nice long flowing shots we’d have liked, we were able to obtain enough footage and photos to ensure the customer had more than enough to work with.
We are skilled and experienced in working in complex and dynamic environments without compromising safety. If you have a project no matter how large or small, straightforward or challenging, please contact us.