Openreach Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of BT Group, is responsible for running the UK’s physical network infrastructure. Established in 2006, they maintain the telephone cables, ducts, cabinets, and exchanges that connect nearly all homes and businesses in the United Kingdom to the national broadband and telephone networks. Openreach’s customers are the 690+ communications providers who sell phone, broadband and Ethernet services to homes and businesses across the UK. With a workforce of over 35,000, they tackle complicated engineering problems, installing and maintaining the complex kit that delivers fibre broadband services, as well as coordinating works with councils, highways agencies, energy suppliers and landowners.
Maintaining the UK’s vast physical network is a challenging undertaking and Openreach are realising the benefits of using drones for a number of applications, for example:
- Surveys of existing infrastructure, where inspections at height are required
- Site surveys when deploying new infrastructure
- Overhead fibre deployment, where drones can easily negotiate obstacles like rivers
Not only does drone usage reduce the time taken to undertake these tasks, Openreach are hugely reducing the risk to their engineers from working at height.
With drones being used by Openreach engineers on a more regular basis, dealing with the significant administrative overheads related to Civil Aviation Authority(CAA) regulations has become increasingly onerous.
The regulatory administrative tasks include:
- Pre-flight planning checks and securing permissions
- Onsite assessment immediately before a flight takes place
- Post flight data capture and logging of hours spent
- Management oversight over pilots, drones and flights
- Maintaining a pilot engineers personal flying record and achieving the requisite hours required to maintain their licence
- Audit and investigative requirements to fulfil CAA regulations
The data generated by these processes and tasks was being recorded in a series of disconnected forms. As the use of drones scales up across Openreach it is becoming increasingly difficult to capture, track and retain all of this data in a consistent, manageable and easy to access format using simple document forms. The process is also time consuming and potentially impacts on the engineers productivity in their daily roles and responsibilities.
”It has been a pleasure working with the Mitra team. The ability to have a dashboard custom-built to provide a top-level view for our pilots as well as a web-app for the pilots to be able to record their flights, has proved extremely useful.Adam NoyceOpen Innovation and Communications, Openreach
Openreach researched commercially available Drone Management Systems, but found them over complex, difficult to use and expensive for what was required. They approached Mitra to build a simple “one stop” web application that could be accessed by engineers via their existing devices i.e. Openreach smartphones and laptops. Mitra leveraged our experienz low-code platform to create and configure an app that captures all the information required across all the tasks in a simple, linear and consistent format. The app also provides an individual pilot flight log and history as required by the CAA. A management dashboard gives oversight of pilots, flights and drones and the data can easily be shared, by exporting files as PDFs as required for the CAA. Mitra built the prototype based on lowcode technology, ensuring fast development time, and the flexibility to adapt to new use cases and add new features, tasks and process steps when required. The prototype became a minimum viable product(MVP) and Openreach have signed a contract for a one year licence with Mitra.
experienz Low-Code Platform
Mitra used the experienz low-code platform to create, through customisation, an app that took the complexity out of complying with the regulatory requirements for commercial drone flights.
Seamless Data Capture
Mitra’s experienz app ensures all data necessary is captured prior to, and post flight, ensuring regulatory adherence at all times.
Prototype to MVP
Mitra built a rapid prototype using the experienz low-code platform. The prototype was so successful that it became a fully fledged MVP, and is now in operational use across Openreach.
Mitra’s low-code app is used by the DroneOps team in Openreach who are responsible for all drone flights. The web-app is used via the engineers smartphone. Mitra has licensed the product to Openreach for a year. Early feedback is positive with the app allowing the required governance to be undertaken simply and methodically. Data gathering and reporting is streamlined and updates to regulatory requirements are easy to manage given the flexibility of the app.
Stable, resilient, scalable product
Compliance with CAA regulatory requirements
Seamless data gathering and reporting
Reduction in complexity and time taken to complete forms
App can easily be updated to reflect regulatory changes