f there's one thing EDF Energy's Professional Engineer Rodol-
phe Jobard has learned, it's that “perspective is everything.”

As EDF’s aerial intelligence team leader, Jobard has been rou-
tinely using an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) as part of his 
project management tasks for EDF’s expansion project at the 
Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset, England—a 
site where Jobard quickly realized the right perspective would 
be everything. 

“Building near an existing nuclear power station presents 
airspace-access issues, and cloud cover is a constant problem,” 
explains Jobard. “A UAS resolves both the airspace and cloud 
cover issues and enables us to have an overview of the Hinkley 
site as often as we need.”

Hinkley Point C, near England’s southwest coast, is one of eight 
nuclear power stations owned and operated by EDF, a wholly-
owned subsidiary of France-based EDF Group. Comprising 
370 acres (150 hectares), Hinkley Point C will have two new 
nuclear reactors capable of generating up to 3,260 megawatts 
of electricity and providing low-carbon energy to around five 
million homes.

The sheer expanse of the site, however, posed significant plan-
ning and monitoring challenges. 

Although a conventional aerial survey was commissioned in 
late 2008, the frequent cloud cover and high costs of com-
missioning a full-sized aircraft would negate its viability as a 
routine information source.

In 2011, EDF issued a tender for a UAS and began analyzing 
the proposed technology. With Somerset’s frequent wind and 
rain, EDF would require a system that could sustain winds up 
to 40 kmh (25 mph) and operate in inclement weather. It also 
needed to be reliable, commercially operational, and come 
complete with customized, image processing software. After 
testing several European products, Jobard chose the Trimble 
X100 UAS, an aerial mapping and surveying system that of-
fers a ground station, a tablet PC for pre-flight and in-flight 
operations, and a fixed-wing airplane with a 10 MP Ricoh GRD 
IV digital camera.

No Pilot Required
For each flight, Jobard first checks the weather forecast to 
ensure wind conditions will be favorable—ideally, less than 
40 khm/25 mph—and prepares the X100 for flight. He hand-
carries the system to the center of the site, allowing him to 
survey any point in the area of interest, and assembles the 
launch catapult. Jobard defines the flight path, including the 
geographic coordinates of the area to scan, and uploads the 
program into the X100’s autopilot system. He can then choose 

Launching a New 

Surveying Perspective