Game of Drones


CLA South West Regional Surveyor, Will Langer, comments on the practical applications of using drone technology in the rural sector.

Will Langer

In recent months, the use of drones has gained substantial media attention, particularly with events at London airports where they have caused safety concerns. However, there are many practical applications that CLA members could take advantage of.

What can I use a drone for?

Land and property uses

Drones give members the ability to investigate the current state of roofs and gutters easily. This is particularly useful when taking into account large portfolios and houses where either considerable amounts of labour or costly scaffolding are required. Furthermore, drones can be fitted with infrared cameras that can identify the source of leaks, both in terms of heat escaping and water entering. This can therefore avoid costly surveys and repairs. 

When working with architects and planners, 3D images and filming can transmit applications onto sites, showing the potential impact that the development would have on the area. In some cases, this can prove to be extremely useful to gaining permission.

Mapping and cropping

CLA Land Use Policy Adviser, Fraser McAuley has already covered the many benefits of mapping and GIS (geographic information systems), in his recent blog which you can read here. This technology is already proving to be extremely effective within the agricultural industry as drones are utilised by farmers for a variety of tasks.

Drones enable farmers to analyse their crops on a field basis and identify where better efficiency is possible. By collecting data such as green leaf cover, topography and crop variability it can be analysed against inputs such as fertiliser, pesticide and feed applications to identify areas for improvement.

What are the limitations?


It is now illegal for drones to be flown within 5km of an airport, increasing from the previous 1km, due to the troubles at Gatwick and Heathrow. Although this is justified from a safety aspect, many farmers must now ensure they are not within this zone, as it will be a criminal offense.


Although small hobby drone costs as little as £50, the equipment soars in price when required for many of the practical applications already mentioned. The technology behind the cameras and analytical software results in products costing many thousands of pounds. Furthermore, it is important to clarify whether a licence is required.  

What if one flies over my land?

Contrary to what some believe, it is illegal to shoot down drones. If a drone is shot by a member, they could face criminal damage charges and risk losing their shotgun certificate. Members are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the Dronecode published by the Civil Aviation Authority, which can be found here, to identify when a drone pilot is breaking the law.

If members have any further questions, please do get in touch with your regional office.