DRONES and robots are being be used to assess the state of one of Swindon’s most iconic heritage buildings.

This week, drones will fly high-tech cameras into the Mechanics’ Institute to carry out a condition survey of the Grade II* listed building.

Swindon Borough Council is looking for ways to restore the building, which closed in 1986 and has lain derelict ever since. It is working in partnership with Historic England and the Mechanics’ Institution Trust to breathe new life into the Railway Village, with a Heritage Action Zone launched this year.

Cabinet member for the town centre Dale Heenan said: “The Mechanics’ is in a derelict state, and our commitment is to make real progress towards restoration within five years. I am serious about making it happen, but it is a 30-year problem no-one has solved, and no-one should forget just how difficult it will be.

“Working with Historic England and the Mechanics’ Institution Trust is vital. We have a plan, we are making progress and this condition survey is a significant step forward.

“Drone technology will allow us to get a really good look at what we are dealing with and the professionals will use the high definition video and scans to estimate the likely cost of restoration and provide a permanent, reviewable record of the state of the building today.”

The survey has been commissioned by the council and funded by Historic England.

The Mechanics’ Institute was built by the Great Western Railway in 1855 to provide a place for recreation and education for railway workers. It included a theatre and a library, among other amenities.

Since 2003 it has been owned by Forefront Estates Ltd and its eventual renovation is a key priority for the council and its partners.

Rebecca Barrett, regional director for Historic England in the south west, said: “At this stage we need to find out how safe the Mechanics’ Institute is, and to understand more about its physical condition.

“As the building is currently out of bounds, drone technology allows us to get the information we need quickly and safely.

"It’s a vital step as we work closely with others to think imaginatively about the future of the building.”

Chair of the Mechanics’ Institution Trust David Thackray, said: “The Trust is very pleased that we are soon going to be able to fully evaluate the structural condition of the building and we look forward to seeing the results in the near future.”