How drone technology can help save crumbling church buildings

Drone technology is set to take off in all sorts of ways, from aerial surveillance to pizza delivery. But for specialist insurer Ecclesiastical it's also a Godsend when it comes to church maintenance.

Worcester Cathedral as seen from a drone.

Ecclesiastical has partnered with St Hilda's Church in Halifax and Worcester Cathedral in a drone survey trial.

The technology will give the insurer fresh insight and accurate data about the churches it insures, which will enable it to provide better and more specific advice.

As well as benefitting its own business, Ecclesiastical has shared the drone imagery with its customers who participated in the trial. This has allowed the parochial church council at St Hilda's to use the images in an application to source funding for a maintenance grant.

Vicar Rev Caroline Greenwood said: '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.'

Another trial 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 before it can 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,' said chief operating officer Val Floy.

According to Ecclesiastical's risk management director Mark Matthews, churches present 'unique' access and maintenance challenges.

'The use of drone technology provides access to high quality imagery and very accurate data, which can be difficult to obtain via traditional surveying methods,' he said.