Published: February 19, 2013
Hi-tech surveying planes take flight over Hinkley Point

It might look like something out of a sci-fi movie, but this hi-tech unmanned aeroplane is currently being used for aerial surveying work at Hinkley Point near Burnham-On-Sea.

EDF Energy has begun preliminary ground works for its proposed Hinkley C station and the firm is using the fixed-wing planes with built-in digital cameras and autopilot systems to take measurements and monitor progress against its plans.

The craft flies over the 150-hectare site each week, taking hundreds of photos. It is operated and monitored on the ground using a tablet computer.

EDF spokesman Gordon Bell said this week: "Compared with a traditional land surveyor equipped with a GPS antenna, the UAS system can cover 1.2 sq km in one flight and produce a points cloud composed of millions of points, where a land surveyor can take only hundreds of points at the most per day."

The craft, from Belgium firm Gatewing, is under the watch of a member of the EDF Energy Construction Team and a qualified Pilot.

Introducing such an innovation in the nuclear industry required a robust safety case and approval from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Nearly 200 companies and organisations across the UK have been granted permission to use 'small unmanned aerial vehicles' (UAVs) in British airspace, ranging from big corporations such as National Grid to rescue services and aerial photography firms.


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