COUNCIL tenants in Oxford should keep their eyes on the sky to check for drones monitoring their homes.

But housing managers insist they have no desire to snoop on residents: the high-tech flying machines are being used to check buildings and roofs, including tower blocks, so they can be properly maintained.

Drone footage is being collected by Oxford Direct Services, the commercial arm of Oxford City Council, and staff will also be tasked with land mapping, aerial photography and filming.

It is the thought to be the first time a local authority-owned organisation has brought drone services in-house and shows the innovative approach of ODS since the council created the wholly-owned company in April.

Ben Strang, ODS project leader of drone services, explained: “I was a felt roofer for 15 years. If you’re working on low to high-rise housing blocks to identify, for example, pest entry points or find roof leaks, putting up scaffolding is at best a very hit-and-miss process.

“Using a drone resolves this and helps us pinpoint exactly where we need to work so that we can do first-time fixes and enhance efficiency.”

Managers said drones were a clean, environmentally-friendly, relatively quiet and unobtrusive way of surveying, compared to using scaffolding.

Mr Strang added: “We’ll be very proactive with residents to safeguard their privacy.

“This means we’ll inform people by letter when we’ll be operating, the reasons for it and offer them the footage if they so wish. This is all documented in our operations manual which had to be approved by the Civil Aviation Authority as part of our licensing process.”

ODS is CAA-licensed and approved to offer commercial services, with qualified and insured pilots.

Initially the company will focus on surveying the roofs of 7,800 properties it maintains on behalf of Oxford City Council.

The use of drones will save time, drive down costs and reduce health and safety challenges.

ODS has invested in an off-the-shelf DJI Phantom 4 Advanced quadcopter drone, which has excellent safety systems and is simple to fly using a remote controller with built-in screen.

Offering up to 30 minutes flight time per battery, the DJI Phantom drone comes with dual-band satellite positioning, five vision sensors for obstacle detection and is equipped with an one-inch 20 Mega Pixel camera, capable of shooting 4K super HD video and stills. All drone operators need the permission of the individual landowner to fly over their land.