Flying high – our Works department takes to the air! | Salisbury Cathedral

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Flying high – our Works department takes to the air!

Posted By : Marie Thomas Monday 1st June 2015

Clerk of The Works, Gary Price, has trialed the use of an unmanned aircraft system (sometimes called a ‘drone’) with ‘on-board’ video camera in order to access areas of the Cathedral that cannot easily reached.


Flying inside and outside the 13th Century building, South African born drone videographer Jacques Eloff of Vertech Imaging in Cobham, Surrey, flew around areas of the building rarely ever seen up close. Given the age of the building and the public access this kind of remote flying requires considerable skill and the pilot has to be qualified.


Pilot Jacques Eloff said: “I hold a ‘Permission for Aerial Work’ from the UK's Civil Aviation Authority that allows me to undertake commercial aerial photography using unmanned aircraft systems. To obtain this qualification requires 3 days ground school, followed by a flying test and one also has to hold public liability insurance. Developing the skills to fly an unmanned aircraft safely and produce good pictures takes time. Coming from a background in radio-controlled aircraft made this considerably easier.” Eloff, who has been living in the UK for 15 years, became interested in unmanned aircraft system cameras after flying model aircraft for 25 years. He got his first around 2 years ago and now does regular aerial filming for the Historic Houses Association including national treasures like Blenheim Palace and Hever Castle.



Gary Price, Clerk of the Works at Salisbury Cathedral said: “I was really keen to try out the system and this year seemed particularly fitting as we launch a varied programme of Magna Carta 800-year anniversary events. We want to engage with as many people as possible. The unmanned aircraft also has a practical application as we can use it to survey the building safely. We were very pleased that Jacques had approached us and we ensured he met all our filming criteria. I think he did a great job.”


With the increasing popularity of unmanned aircraft systems the CAA has imposed a general height limitation of 400 feet for them in order to keep clear of manned aircraft operations. However, from that height Jacques was unable to frame the entire Cathedral or even fly right over with our spire being 404’, so he requested a special once-off permission to fly to 600 feet. This involved liaising with air traffic control at Old Sarum airfield and Boscombe Down Military airfield so that they would ensure that no aircraft under their control would fly near the Cathedral whilst he filmed at that height.


The Cathedral has a strict unmanned aircraft system policy in line with the CAA regulations and no flying is permitted in the Close or around the Cathedral without express permission being granted by the Cathedral Authorities. If you wish to seek permission to film with an unmanned aircraft please contact Marie Thomas at the Cathedral Press Office:


Music: Music for our  video has been kindly supplied by local band Insomnia from Southampton. The band members are all in their mid-teens and, despite having formed just two years ago, they have already reached this year’s final of Battle of the Bands. Follow this link to hear more of Insomnia’s music