PwC completes drone experiment in South Wales

A recent experiment conducted by PWC in South Wales could help businesses accelerate productivity and realise £16 billion in savings by 2030.

The professional services giant used a drone to assist with a stock count audit and measure the volume of coal reserves at an RWE-owned power plant in Aberthaw.

It said the project is part of a wider drive to harness emerging technologies that can enhance audit quality and transform the audit process.

Hemione Hudson, head of assurance at PwC, said: “Technology is an enabler for positive change and this drone-assisted stock count is an illustration of how we are using technology to enhance audit quality and efficiency.

Drones are just one of a number of technologies that could improve audit quality in different ways across different sectors. But maximising the benefits of emerging technologies is reliant on having the right people with the skills to interpret the resulting data.

“We are constantly investing in attracting the best people into our business and training them in new technologies to ensure our audit quality continues to improve.”

The drone, which was manufactured and operated by British tech firm QuestUAV, captured more than 300 images at the coal reserve. Digital solutions were then used to measure its volume.

Richard French, audit partner at PwC, commented: “Coal stock has a material value on RWE’s balance sheet, so we carry out an annual stock observation and evaluation as part of our audit process.

“We observe the manual coal count carried out by RWE’s external surveyor, then assess the resulting data which feeds into the financial statements.

“The traditional stock count method involves climbing over the coal pile and using a two metre GPS tracking pole to measure the area and elevation from the ground at various points. The data is then used to build a contour of the reserves and estimate its volume.

During the project, a multi-rotor drone also took photos of the wider site. This has allowed RWE to modernise the way it inspects the condition of assets.

Elaine Whyte, UK drones leader at PwC, added: “This trial with RWE is the first time PwC has used drones for audit stock count purposes.

“It demonstrates the powerful new perspective that we believe drones can offer for businesses across a wide variety of industries. Sectors with large assets in hard to reach areas are the most obvious starting points for expanding this kind of work further – from mining to agriculture and forestry.

Image credit: Joe Loong