Our brief was to use our drones to film the world famous lantern of the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. It would be inside as well as outside, Ooh ahh!
If any UAV crew has doubts about the importance of the pre-flight assessment of a site, I suggest they stand next to the white marble altar of that cathedral and look up into that huge concrete and glass structure which is the Lantern and see a huge steel crown, barely visible metal and miles of electrical cabling, no room for errors!
And what about public safety? The cathedral grounds are open to the public and the doors are open to visitors and worshippers. Just how do you get everyone “under your control” as required by the Civil Aviation Authority?
As soon as we heard about this project we had our planning hats on, first examining our maps in detail and then going to the site (which we combined with a visit to Crosby Beach and the Anthony Gormley figures) for a pretty good look around.
A short walk around the cathedral grounds assured us we could secure the area as long as we had the co-operation of the staff and brought along extra Lunar Aerial Imaging warning boards and a lot of barrier warning tape; we also realized we would need at least one Spotter to help steward any stray members of the public (thanks, Tom, for coming along to do this).
The interior was a different matter. To do the job we would need to get ourselves onto the balcony, which runs along the upper ring beam at the base of the base of the lantern, high above the floor of the nave. Phone calls were made and soon we were assured that stonemason Richard would be our guide and ensure we understood the safety aspects and supply the necessary safety harnesses.
And so, on the day, it all worked. The pre-flight assessment had served its purpose. For the exterior, working for Greg Harding Photography, we got to get the area under our control using the warning boards and tape, and took some great footage and stills using the DJI 900 knowing that the public safety issues were all covered.
Inside the cathedral the staff roped off the seating area under the planned flight area and we made our way up to the launch area, the Phantom in the backpack and the transmitter in Richard’s. We reached the base of the sloped roof via a five flight staircase inside the building followed by a 10ft climb up a vertical ladder. Now we on the outside and looking down we were grateful for the safety harness which enabled us to hook ourselves onto cables as we started the long climb up the angled ladder fixed the slanted roof of the cathedral. Wow what great views!
Eventually we reached the upper ring beam and suddenly we were back inside that amazing tower of light and glass that is the lantern via a small door and were standing behind some railings on a narrow ledge some 38 meters above the altar.
And with a take off in a very limited space we flew that Phantom up into the lantern, around and around, up and down. Exhilarating, exciting, and the unique stills and footage we got were the icing on the cake.
But it only happened because we went by the book and did the planning and pre-flight site assessment. The CAA have got to love us!