The Little UAV That Could

Talk about housing to people outside the sector and they’ll eventually go comatose, well maybe that’s just the way I talk to them about it. Perhaps unsurprisingly talk about tech to the uninitiated and a similar outcome occurs. For the record I’m not fluent in tech, I just speak it conversationally, but again I can easily put people to sleep chatting about it, oh dear. Put the two together and something beautiful (occasionally disastrous) happens. I’ve never known a couple of topics clash so readily, so reliably, so unintentionally.

As with many issues a large part of the problem appears to be around existing mentalities, rather than the technical/practical issues at hand. Previous reactions by organisations, housing professionals and tenants (a historic term for housing customers m’lord) to the use of new tech like UAVs (Drones) has been erm, mixed shall we say. Coincidentally some of the most representative quotes from previous pieces by Inside Housing* on housing and the use of Drone/UAV tech are:

The Ominous/Not a fan

How sick can it get in Cameron’s Britain, this outstrips George Orwell’s 1984 and these two HAs should be striped of their licence and the homes handed back to the councils . I can see someone with RC experience launching a radio controlled aircraft to bring this drone down…

The Spot On

What nobody seems to be saying is that you actually need a licence to fly these, even the small ones, and their use is covered by the CAA, so no, staff won’t be queuing up to get a shot unless they are breaking aviation law.

And the downright scary/witty

Every housing association in the land managed by a single General Jumbo figure in control of a vast mini armoury controlling its affairs on land, air and sea from a single controller on his forearm. I have seen the future!

Joking aside the above highlight the need to better engage and inform around what we do in social housing (not heard that one before…). Don’t get me wrong, we’re not about to build mini tech armies anytime soon. For the most part the practical applications of UAVs in social housing will be around surveying properties or 3D mapping potential areas of development. Though some may want to use it for ASB/surveillance work. I suppose this would be interesting as it would give the guys and girls who normally throw stones at stationary CCTV cameras with bricks a moving target. As a side note, check out this little beauty of a video. I would highly recommend not doing this, but it is tres amusing to watch.

For many though it’s probably outside a life of crime/ASB fighting that housing may well find the best use for UAVs. Particularly as it’s possible to get from 3D mapping (via aforementioned non maned flying vehicles) to 3D printing. Booya, tech-boner! You could also hook up your mapping/surveying results to Minecraft and digitally recreate estates and offices, if you so wished, as even Ordinance Survey have got on the Minecraft gravy train. And that’s before mentioning the ability to check heat insulation in roofs without entering the property. The possibilities aren’t endless but there’s a lot of them.

However, whilst UAVs will interest some in the #UKHousing sector – contracting in, rather than operating in-house may well prove the most cost-effective means of making the most of an intriguing bit of tech. Something highlighted by Paul Taylor in Inside Housing’s latest article on all things drone. The pricing of these bad-boys is a bit like RyanAir, seemingly cheap at the beginning – but things soon mount up when you want more than one item of luggage. And with oorganisations like fireFLY Aerial Innovation* (who are pretty typical of what is currently out there) offering a mix of surveying, photography, mapping and consultancy services. It’d probably be best to dip one’s toes rather than dive right in on this occasion.

*All quotes can be found in the comments section of Carl Brown’s piece for Inside Housing, Housing Associations to trial drones 03/09/14.

**Full disclosure, I know these chaps, other UAV Operators are available. Further disclosure, the use of FLY in capital letters was their idea…

If you feel so inclined you can follow me on Twitter here or find me using the handle @ngoodrich87, you can view the rest of my blogs here.

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