East Winch drone business is taking off

Bawsey ruins, taken by Offgrid Solutions UK Ltd. ANL-150701-112254001
Bawsey ruins, taken by Offgrid Solutions UK Ltd. ANL-150701-112254001

The sky’s the limit quite literally for two Lynn men who have just set up a new business using drones to capture life below from above.

Marc Underwood and Jim Garrett, of East Winch-based Off Grid Solutions Ltd, are the only two fully qualified and licenced professionals to operate drones in West Norfolk area.

Off Grid Solutions UK with the Drones'Front LtoR, Marc Underwood (left) and Jim Garrett (right) 'Back LtoR, Cameraman Robert Fuller and Denny Underwood ANL-150114-201016009

Off Grid Solutions UK with the Drones'Front LtoR, Marc Underwood (left) and Jim Garrett (right) 'Back LtoR, Cameraman Robert Fuller and Denny Underwood ANL-150114-201016009

And with interest already been shown by a diverse range of customers, their sights are set not only on locations throughout the UK, but anywhere in the world.

They are fully qualified pilots licenced by the Civil Aviation Authority and have the scope to take their drones skywards to film or take still shots.

With so much scope for potential customers, their business horizon stretches far and wide.

In West Norfolk they have taken an overhead video of the new Hillington site of Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House, when it was under construction; stills of Lynn’s largest solar panel rooftop system at Optima Stainless on Lynn’s Hardwick Narrows Estate; and the tidal bore at St Germans.

Off Grid Solutions UK with the Drone in mid air'Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it's a drone'The camera can be seen at the bottom of this picture ANL-150114-200912009

Off Grid Solutions UK with the Drone in mid air'Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it's a drone'The camera can be seen at the bottom of this picture ANL-150114-200912009

Said Jim, who is a drone pilot and company director: “There is a broad range of options for which we can use the drones. We do both cinematography and still shots.

“Commercially, the drones can be used on construction sites, for surveying and capturing progress, from groundwork through to the building taking shape. They can also be used for inspecting buildings. Instead of incurring the cost of thousands of pounds for scaffolding to look at a roof, for instance, we can put up a drone and obtain detailed hi-res images.

“They can also be used to capture shots of the countryside, perhaps of rivers, which can be useful to an authority such as the Environment Agency, and for archaeological purposes. Private individuals may want an aerial video or picture of their property and other possibilities are special events such as weddings. Overhead views of properties may also appeal to estate agents.”

In the future they are also considering producing thermal imaging which will help to identify energy efficiency on buildings.

However it’s not as simple as just going along to a location and putting up a drone to take pictures. There is detailed planning involved and they have to strictly adhere to CAA regulations. They have to research the area in which they will operate and take into account weather conditions, such as wind and rain.

Said Marc, company secretary: “Safety is paramount. We have to stay within the limits the CAA set. For example we are not allowed to fly higher than 120 metres and we have to use the Visual Line of Sight, which is vertically 400 feet and horizontally 500 metres. Anyone using a drone cannot go within 50 metres of a person or building, unless they have permission to do so.

“If we are in a restricted zone, such as near a military base, we need to notify air traffic control, so they can make our presence known to aircraft operating in the area.”

And if they should be filming near any residential areas, they make a point of letting the local community know beforehand so people are aware of what is happening. “We want people to know that we are not there filming them. Communication is important, otherwise people might start ringing the police because they have seen a drone in the sky,” said Marc.

The drones they operate are a DJI F550 six-bladed hexacopter, which is 550mm wide and weighs just over two kilos, and a DJI S1000 eight-bladed octocopter, weighing 11 kilos, which is kitted out with a Panasonic GH4 camera, although they can fit recording equipment of their choice on board. The digital camera they use is capable of filming in 4K – which is four times the quality of HD.

It takes a minimum of two people to carry out the operation, one being the pilot in control of the drone while the other is using a screen to see what images the camera is picking up. The drones, which are battery-powered, are usually only in flight for up to ten minutes.

Said Jim: “On the ground we have a full editing suite, where we can edit videos and pictures. We also print and frame the images for a complete finished product.”

With their training, qualifications and experience, they are expecting their drone business to take off. Said Marc: “The way the industry is moving, we can see that it’s going to grow rapidly. We have invested a lot of our time and money into the kit, which is the top of the range, so effectively we are at the top of our game.

“We will operate nationwide, but we can work anywhere in the world, providing we have the correct permission from that country’s authority.”

Marc is also a company director of AGS Groundworks and Aries Services and Jim is also a company director of Core Technology Projects.

Inquiries about their business can be made by calling their East Winch office on 01553 840842.