Can drones revolutionize the traffic survey industry?

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity – Albert Einstein

It seems appropriate to be writing this blog on the year anniversary that we went into Lockdown. Back in March 2020, like so many others, I found myself in a position I never expected to find myself in. I was made redundant from a job I had happily been doing for 7 years. As a direct result of the first Lockdown, work had almost stopped overnight. I was in the Traffic Data Collection Industry, and with no traffic…there was no work!

I openly admit I was scared and apprehensive of what the future held in a pandemic. After the initial shock, I decided the only way forward would be to ‘go it alone’, and Kestrel Surveys was founded. I felt fortunate that 2 years previous to this an individual had mentioned using drones to capture traffic data, and to be honest, I was sceptical. I wasn’t a fan of drones, and in fact found them annoying when they flew over my house.

But we gave it a test on a sunny day on a busy junction in Wales. And wow, I was surprised and impressed, and perhaps more importantly, excited of the capabilities.  From then on, I was hooked!  I took my PFCO (Permission for Commercial Operation) Exam and within a few weeks I had gone from being a drone sceptic (and knowing nothing about drones) to a fully qualified CAA approved drone pilot and becoming obsessed by anything drone related.

The drone very much became the tool in my toolbox, and using it correctly not only made my job easier, but it gave the client a quality data set never seen before. The feedback from clients was very positive. There were a lot of positives to using drones but being one of the first to embrace this technology in an industry where it hadn’t been used before was challenging. How could I show people the benefits of using drones and challenge the negative association with them, as well as change people’s ideas about embracing new methods of data collection. Drones have had quite a bad press, especially in light of the Gatwick incident (if indeed there was a drone there at all!) which meant individuals might be reluctant to use this technology, especially if more traditional methods were still being widely accepted.

But I found the event that led to the inception of Kestrel Surveys also meant people seemed open to new technologies. COVID bought with it, more of an opportunity to have meetings via Zoom, there seemed to a more open atmosphere to have a chat. And suddenly the population wanted an easy, social distanced way of working. Flying a drone suddenly fitted the criteria for working safely alone, but I could also live stream footage to offices all around the country, whether that be someone’s usual workplace, or their spare room ‘office’. It felt as though more people were willing to embrace this way of working and this new technology


Drone Kestrel Surveys

So, is COVID an opportunity for transport planners and the transport industry as a whole to re-evaluate things?

The benefits of using drones are numerous. They are time saving, cost effective, efficient and COVID safe. As the above photo illustrates, multiple locations can be captured in one shot by one drone, and it’s perfect for capturing queue data. There’s also the added safety of having people away from the roads, reducing road traffic accidents. And that’s just to name but a few. So, if you have a project and are unsure of how drones may help, please get in touch at  as we’d love to be able to help and possibly provide a solution.

Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face – Walter Breuning



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