A brand new business has entered the Cairns arena. Operating drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) the business is tapping into a whole new world of technology. “Droner” is launching itself into the atmosphere after being approved as an operator by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

The entrepreneurial owner, a qualified commercial pilot, has recently obtained the appropriate approval after undertaking a lengthy and in-depth process with the regulating body.

Chief controller and managing director of the company, Tom Watson, said that he would be operating a Quadcopter and an Octocopter as the drone, or UAV, within his business. Each drone has the ability to carry a high-definition 4K camera that is capable of both video and photography footage. Additional payloads such as thermal imaging, infared, multi spectral and lidar are currently being researched. Mr Watson has future plans to purchase more drones which can be tailored to his clients needs.

Speaking of the drones, Mr Watson explained that the vehicles were flown by remote control and came with a base station with a live feed displaying footage of what the vehicle was seeing, as well as telemetry data.

Mr Watson explained that there were many potential uses for drones in industries such as real estate, environmental monitoring, construction, mining, agriculture and tourism.

“Drones are becoming really cost-effective and a lot cheaper than manned aircraft such as helicopters”, remarked Mr Watson. Additional advantages of drones include the ability to provide instant results and having an ability to operate in difficult to reach areas and at lower heights than helicopters. The noise footprint is much lower than a helicopter, as well as the technology being environmentally friendly operating on batteries rather than fuel.

As an avid aviation enthusiast, Mr Watson stated “I am very interested in seeing which Cairns’ industries embrace this new technology”. He further explained that Cairns’ industries that would specifically benefit from the new technology included projects involving the protection of the Great Barrier Reef and/or improvement in farming practice and efficiency on the Tablelands.

During his career as a commercial pilot Mr Watson has flown fixed wing aircraft such as small Cessna’s to large Boeing jets in Far North Queensland and greater Australia. Mr Watson has been based out of Cairns for the last 6 years and is familiar with the Cairns operating environment.

Having obtained the correct approvals and insurance, Mr Watson believes that all business’s investing in drone work should ensure they use approved operator’s who have public liability insurance.

In early 2014 there was an incident at the Geraldton Triathlon in Western Australia. An unlicensed and uninsured UAV operator crashed during the event, hitting a triathlete who subsequently required a number of stitches.

“As the smaller aircraft can be a total weight of approximately 2kg, they can still potentially cause quite a large amount of damage or harm at the speed they travel at”, said Mr Watson. Mr Watson said he was conscious of operators obtaining the required approval and insurance just as he did.

Mr Watson said he suspected there were UAVs operating illegally in Queensland. He did not begrudge the red tape that he had to go through to get his CASA approval but instead encouraged the regulation to ensure safety of operators and the general public.

Privacy is another issue that raises its head. Droner has no interest in spying on people. That said, Droner will comply with Australia’s Federal Privacy Act 1988.

Droner operation is available throughout Far North Queensland and Australia. The owner, Tom Watson, can be contacted at [email protected] for more information.