A sharp rise in unmanned aircraft is set to slash costs in cropping and land management, overcoming the need for light planes in many different applications.
A weed-spraying contractor is the latest Canberra businesses taking to the skies with an unmanned aircraft.
Greg Harris is leasing a 3.36 metre-long helicopter, which carries two eight-litre containers of spray.
This will bring a new dimension to weed control, which costs the ACT government $1.9 million annually and billions of dollars across Australia.
The Civil Aviation Authority has approved 41 operators of unmanned aircraft across Australia and the listing is climbing fast.
The Canberra Times reported last month on the first aerial vehicle to get approval to operate commercially for photography. CASA’s director of Aviation Safety, John McCormick, told an industry forum in February numbers had doubled in 12 months and their rapid growth would challenge regulators.
Mr McCormick said right to privacy was a matter for the Australian Privacy Commissioner.
”Another evolving topic is environmental issues; again, while acknowledging that it is not part of CASA’s role, like manned aircraft, RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) operations will have an impact on the environment.”
Mr Harris said his unmanned helicopter would reach remote areas, opening the way for more economic weed control, for example in steep terrain in the Brindabella Mountains clearing blackberries from under power lines, a job that could require hauling a bulldozer into the bush.
”We can get into ravines, crevices, insane places where people just can’t go, but we can put that machine in,” Mr Harris said.
”We can stand on a hill and fly down into gully lines, or big, deep creeks. That’s its advantage.”
Bushfires, a bad back and curiosity led Mr Harris to becoming the first contractor for Yamaha to use the RMAX technology.