Local councils reveal plans to use DRONES to target cowboy builders

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Cowboy builders who rip off homeowners are to be targeted by drones in a new bid to protect the public.

The devices will help council staff investigate complaints about rogue workmen and inspect shoddy jobs.

Cameras fitted to the drones will stream live footage of roofs and other hard-to-reach spots to inspectors.

The remote-controlled devices could also be used to gather evidence against builders and provide proof of planning control breaches.

Dodgy contractors cost the UK economy £10billon a year – up from £3.5billion in 2010, according to the Federation of Master Builders.

Trading standards chiefs have invested nearly £2,000 in one of the hi-tech devices, which is to be licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Drones are already having a major impact on the way we live

Matt O’Neill, assistant head of planning and trading standards at North Yorkshire County Council, said: “Like many councils, we use advances in technology to help us to work smarter.

“It’s a useful addition to the tools available to the county council, enabling us to make more efficient use of our limited resources and to enhance health and safety.”

He said the drone could be used for inspections of poor roofing work and maintenance assessments of property, bridges and public footpaths.

Other councils could adopt a similar scheme if it proves successful. Mr O’Neill added: “We researched the market and talked to other public sector drone users to identify the type that would meet our requirements, taking specialist advice from our legal and finance teams.”

It comes amid a rising number of complaints about botched, unfinished and overpriced building work.

Separate research based on criminal convictions by website PropertyHeads shows high-risk areas for cowboys are County Durham, Kent and Essex.

The firm recently launched an online database to shame rogue traders.

Around 1,000 convicted offenders have been named on the website after being checked against court records.

Users will be able to look through the blacklist as part of their background checks before hiring workmen.

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