Our client, a 3D Visualisation company, needed to get an aerial shot of part of a roof scape located in Central London. Having been turned down by another UAV company because of the location and restrictions in UAV activity; we at Helipix were asked if we could help.
The shot they wanted was at low angle of the roof of a building in Vauxhall Bridge Road looking towards the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. The main requirement was that the image could be used to show how the new development would look in the roof scape and the view it would have from that location.
The issues that needed to be overcome were:
1 - Taking off from the pavement level was out of the question as Vauxhall Bridge Road is very busy and a permit to shut the road off was unfeasible and too costly.
2 - The site is located in the Restricted Flying Zone from ground level to 1400 feet.
3 - The weather had to be good and clear to obtain the shot.
4 - The timing and height had to be strictly controlled so the shot could be used for a 3D visualisation.
Each of these options was considered:
1 - A manned helicopter.
2 - Pole or mast.
3 - UAV
A manned helicopter would need to be a twin engined aircraft that would need to fly well away from the site so that at 500 feet AGL (lowest height it would be allowed to fly at) the shot would have needed a long telephoto lens to obtain the shallow angle required. A twin engined helicopter would have cost around £600 - £800 per hour to charter.
A pole or mast was an option, however this would have needed to be set up from a rooftop opposite the site. The difficulty in getting a pole or mast set up through a roof laden with plant and air conditioning ductwork was difficult if not impossible. Also the height would have not been enough to get the shot required.
Helipix were asked to look into the option of using a UAV to take the shot and so looked at the problem and suggested that we took off from the opposite rooftop keeping the UAV over the roof at all times. Permission was granted from the building owners and Helipix obtained a Special Flight Clearance to fly the UAV in the restricted area.
With the coordination of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) at Swanwick, Helipix were able to fly the UAV with the client monitoring the angle and position of the UAV, through the hand held monitor, to get the shots they client required. All this while 2 helicopters covering the London Marathon were flying in the vacinity.
Once the flights were completed ATC at Swanwick were notified and the client had the shots they needed for their development brochure.