Using drone technology to strengthen our surveying proposition

06 February 2019

Ecclesiastical Insurance trials drone technology to enhance its risk management service for commercial customers.

Worcester cathedral from above
Best known for its expertise in the heritage, faith and charity sectors, Ecclesiastical has one of the UK’s largest in-house insurance risk management teams. Using drones to provide aerial imagery of otherwise inaccessible parts of buildings, the technology will provide fresh risk insight and accurate data to support building valuations undertaken by its surveyors. 

      The drone trials

      Ecclesiastical has used drones at three sites so far with a fourth site scheduled for next year. So far, the technology has revealed damaged and loose high level slates, tiles and stonework and missing pointing. 
      One of the test sites, a school in the south of England, received a shock when the drone revealed a number of footballs, rugby balls and tennis balls sitting on the roof of its new sports hall blocking the gutters! 
      Commenting on the trials, Mark Matthews, risk management director at Ecclesiastical said: “Heritage structures present unique access and maintenance challenges. The use of drone technology gives us access to high quality imagery and very accurate data, which would be near impossible to obtain via traditional surveying methods. We can then apply our own knowledge and expertise to the results to assess the risks and provide specialist advice on how to manage these.” 
      The data gathered from the drones will also enable Ecclesiastical to calculate reinstatement or restoration values with more certainty reducing the risk of underinsurance for its customers. 
      As well as benefitting its own business, Ecclesiastical has shared the drone imagery with the trial sites. For St Hilda’s church in Halifax, the images have been used as part of an application to source funding for a maintenance grant. 
      We’ve known about issues with the church’s guttering for some time but haven’t been able to get up to the roof to inspect them properly. Now we have really clear pictures of the problem and we can submit the photos as part of our grant application and hopefully that will strengthen our case.

      The Reverend Caroline Greenwood, Vicar at St Hilda’s

      Worcester Cathedral

      Another of the trials took place at Worcester Cathedral. The use of drone technology to inspect the cathedral’s tower means that the cathedral will not have to pay for costly scaffolding and can now plan the work that is needed.  
      “We were conscious that parts of the tower needed to be inspected but the costs and logistical challenges of doing this meant we had not been able to do so. The imagery captured by the drone will enable us to do an initial assessment so we can prioritise future work and inspections.” Added Val Floy, chief operating officer at Worcester Cathedral. 
      “From the trials we’ve been running it’s clear that drone technology will complement the expertise of our risk management team and strengthen the service we provide to our customers. We are excited to see what else this technology can bring to our offering.” Mark concluded.