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Congested area approvals – The Facade inspection at Lloyd’s of London

Over a year ago, at the request of one of our most important clients Arup, The Virtulab undertook a site visit to the Lloyd’s of London building on Lime Street in the centre of London. The plan was to capture the detail of the facade as part of a 5-year project to assess and monitor the external fabric of the Lloyd’s building.

Project Hurdles 

It was identified that there were many hurdles to overcome to make this project happen but ultimately it was achievable safely, legally and would meet the client’s expectations.

The Permission for Commercial Operations and the Operating Safety Case had already been in place for several years although it was deemed appropriate to reduce the operational distances down to 5m for takeoff and landing and 10m in flight. 

The project was due to start early this year but the COVID pandemic delayed the commencement of the operation until late summer.  

Flight Planning

The Virtulab undertake all flight planning using the Soarizon by Thales platform and this identified several planning issues surrounding the operation. The building sat within the City of London Airspace as well as a wider restriction applicable to most of central London so an Enhanced Non – Standard Flight (ENSF) approval was obtained from National Air Traffic Service (NATS).  Flock provided a tailored revision to our insurance policy to cover the potential increased liability when flying in such a heavily congested area.

Furthermore, as part of the ENSF Permission, daily clearance was required from the Diplomatic Protection Dept of the Metropolitan Police who had already undertaken background checks on all the Pilots listed on the Permission as they had received these details on the ENSF directly from NATS. 

Drone Policy

The City of London Corporation has a Drone Policy in place which must be adhered to. The requirements are very strict and ultimately they meant we had to alter our flight plan as well as obtain a permit to fly a drone within the City. 

The Virtulab Additional Site Visits 

Another site visit was undertaken two weeks before the planned date and issues around GPS signal and varying wind direction and speed was also identified. The Virtulab have several skilled pilots capable of flying in GPS denied environments whilst controlling a UAV in ever-changing winds just meters from building facades so this wasn’t an issue.

It was also identified that additional equipment would be required and as a Full Stack customer with Heliguy, these additional requirements were taken care of quickly with a simple phone call with equipment arriving the following day.


Drone operations in Congested Areas 

So when you see an advert from a UAV Operator claiming that they can operate in central London or other Congested Areas, there are a lot of questions you need to ask them before you engage them. Or you can contact a company that actually carries out these types of projects and has the experience and expertise to complete these types of mission safely and legally.

For more information contact The Virtulab here.