Using drones for inspection - COPTRZ speak to Puffin Technology Ltd
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How Networx3 are using inspection drones

Hayley

2:55 pm GMT •

March 06, 2020

In this blog you’ll find out how our customer Networx3 is using drones for inspection:

  • How using drones for inspection has made their operations safer, faster and more cost effective
  • How Networx3 use inspection drones to manage risk and protect their workforce 
  • The different types of drones Networx3 use for industrial inspection
  • An insight into working in the drone sector as a female 
  • Coptrz role in supporting Networx3 to adopt drones into their operations

drones for inspection Networx3

Caroline Earnshaw-Florczyk is Commercial Director for Networx3, who specialise in Fibre Optic Voice and Data Infrastructure solutions including innovative technology such as blown fibre optics.

Networx3 have been using drones for over two years now in order to protect their workforce by inspecting areas that are hard to reach or confined spaces. Caroline has a passion for innovation and believes drone technology can greatly reduce the risk to the workforce during industrial inspections.

Networx3 partnered with COPTRZ to supply a range of inspection drones, CAA drone training, specialist ELIOS 2 training and ongoing support to help the business introduce drone technology.

We’ve sat down with Caroline to ask a few questions about her experience with drone technology and how Networx3 are blazing a trail through the use of drones.

drones for inspection Networx3

Tell us about your journey at Networx3?

I joined Networx3 6.5 years ago after choosing not to go down the university route. Instead, I worked my way up through a company that recognised my drive and potential.  I was very passionate about what Networx3 did and after two years I was promoted to Commercial Director.

My role is predominantly overseeing every aspect from finance to operations.  I’m also a PfCO licenced drone pilot for the business, this is a big focus for Networx3 because we’re passionate about innovation and technology.

How did you get into operating inspection drones?

It was at Networx3 where I was first introduced to drones, before then I knew nothing about them.  So it’s all very new.

Around 18 months ago we started to look at drone technology and what the potential uses could be for our organisation. Ian, the founder of Networx3 was very much the driving force in the early days. After he received a hobby drone as a gift he took a shine to it and saw its potential for business applications.

Ian and I made a bee-line for searching and developing the possibilities of adopting drone technology into the business, and since then we’ve mastered a small fleet of drones as well as other aspects of drone technology

Elios 2 in action

What led you to get your permission to fly drones for inspection?

I have spent a large amount of time excitedly involved in the development of the Drone arm of Networx3. I have overseen our drone flights, and I have supported with the management of the operational function.  I also acted as an observer monitoring the safety and success of drone flights, so I decided to get my PfCO in order to fly on behalf of the company.

I can now undertake commercial inspections and project activities for our clients.

Tell me about the Networx3 company innovation strategy and why it’s important to innovate?

I think if you’re in the technology industry you’ll get left behind if you don’t innovate, it’s as simple as that.

Technology is developing daily, if not by the hour, and it’s a future-proofing exercise for everyone to always be one step ahead.  That’s what Networx3 as a business has always done.

For example, when every other business was pulling fibre-cables, we were blowing it in using compressed air.  Everyone thought we were crazy at first but now everyone uses this system as a standard now. In our company culture, development and innovation is just second nature and it has to be that way.

Improving the safety conditions through the use of drones

We work in a lot of dangerous environments; sending people up towers, inspecting areas difficult to reach and sending people into isolated areas so what better way of benefiting the company than introducing drones.

With drones we can either prevent people working in these dangerous environments, or we can use the drone as a back-up and a support mechanism for the team that’s on the ground. Instead of relying on a rigging crew and thousands of pounds a day to access a tower why not send a drone up safely and review the condition without putting anyone at risk.

We’re very passionate about health and safety and we’ve never had a major incident since the company was founded in 2003. The worst incident we’ve had is a cut finger (twice in all that time), so for us we’re proud of that. Drones are just an extra string to our bow to allow us to look after our workforce.

drones for inspection Networx3 Matrice 210 v2

Are your competitors using drones for inspection applications yet?

Our competitors aren’t adopting drone technology yet, I think this is because drones are still quite a niche and unknown territory. There are big organisations that use drone technology, but not businesses that we tend to compete with.

I envisage that there will be competition in the future, like with anything, as technology grows people start to jump on the bandwagon and try to adapt the technology quickly. I think the difference with Networx3 is we go above and beyond to have the credentials for every element of what we do. For example, we aren’t just insured to a basic level, we’re insured for up to £20 million in liability with drones alone. Everything we do we are covered to the highest capacity possible to ensure we work to a standard, that’s how we stand out.

Our competitors aren’t anywhere near us in that respect at least that’s my interpretation of it at the moment.

What drones do Networx 3 currently have in their fleet?

We’ve got five drones in our fleet including the Flyability ELIOS 2, a DJI Matrice 210, a DJI Mavic Enterprise Dual Thermal, a DJI Mavic 2 Pro and DJI Phantom 4.

We also have five drone pilots that work with us so we can cover the whole country for drone inspections. I am one of the five pilots myself, I got the PfCO in January 2020 and I’m the designated ELIOS 2 pilot.  This is hands down my favourite drone.

Flyability Elios

How could drones be improved to better suit your organisations needs?

Overall the issue with drones is the negative press and the people with lack of knowledge portraying them to be bad for the industry. In my opinion the capabilities are incredible, a lot of TV programmes these days use video footage taken by drones, yet people never give credit to the fact that amazing documentation has been created using drone technology.

Networx3 are committed to promoting the good that drones can do by using social media and by talking to all our clients about how they can benefit from using drones. Ultimately, it’s about changing a mindset which is always going to be hard, but one-day drones will just become the norm like mobile phones, but right now they’re in their infancy.

At Networx3 we’re changing the perspective on drones by proving their versatility in the field.

drones for inspection Networx3 flight simulator

How have you found working in this sector as a female?

I’m in an industry that’s classed as male-dominated full stop, and that’s been my experience for the last 6.5 years. I’m very much an equality-based person, I don’t like to be gender-specific and I believe everyone is capable regardless of gender. I tend to shy away from the thinking of ‘I’m a woman in a man’s world’ because I might end up sounding as bad as ‘I’m in a man’s world and women don’t belong in it’.

I have been supported massively, internally at Networx3 by Ian (owner), he has been the driving force in encouraging me to be as involved as possible which is fantastic.

I hope the industry develops for women and people take inspiration from the fact that we can all do whatever we want to do. I sadly don’t think the outlook on gender difference will ever be fully equal, though that would be a nice aspiration, I don’t think it will ever fully happen based on my experience. If anything, if anyone wants to see me as a hindrance because I’m a woman that just gives me more fire in my belly to go and do even better.

Networx3 is an exceptional company for equality and diversity, always has been and always will be. I would love to encourage other women to get involved, have some fun and go out there doing a great job with great devices.

Why did you choose to partner with COPTRZ as your drone supplier?

It’s been a real pleasure to work with COPTRZ.  At Networx3 we deal with people, we don’t just deal with an organisation because of it’s stature.

As a business, we tend to go on gut instinct and how we feel about the people we’re actually liaising with. At COPTRZ we’ve always received fair, honest and quick advice which is crucial for us. We work in a fast-paced industry, so if we need an answer to something we get it straight away.

We’re a reactive and proactive business, what we like about COPTRZ is they’re always at the end of the phone. If we need advice or something sending over it’s with us within minutes. We’ve got a great rapport with everyone we’ve dealt with. The training we’ve received has been fantastic and the knowledge base is in-depth and supportive. If we’ve got a question there’s never any hesitation there’s always a response, an answer and a justification.

Honesty is few and far between especially in this industry, in the past, we’ve been led to purchase something that doesn’t actually function in a way that suits us.  With COPTRZ we’ve never had that and always receive honest advice.

When we came across COPTRZ we realised there was a partner out there that could supply us with every aspect. We attended the Drone Demo Day in 2019 and that was fantastic, it was informative, approachable and welcoming.

Everything we’ve done with COPTRZ so far has been brilliant.

George Burne

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