Important UAV forum at the University of Canterbury

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Civil Aviation Authority and Airways traffic managers are among a growing group of key industry partners attending an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) forum to look at the future of drones at the University of Canterbury on Thursday.

A wide variety of organisations are participating, ranging from small aerial photography companies to large multinationals allowing industry to get direct answers to their regulatory questions. Other groups and industry are taking part, connecting via remote web link and the forum will be recorded.

The University of Canterbury is leading the way helping regulation development given recent fines of drone operators. The university’s senior UAV engineer Kelvin Barnsdale says they will regularly review current market demand, industry research needs, operating safety and also look at outcomes of national and international seminars and reports from UAV industry associations.

“The forum was initially focused on research, and our academics from electrical engineering, mechanical engineering computer science and geography are attending,” says Barnsdale, from the university’s Spatial Engineering Research Centre.

“We have a variety of interests in UAV technology, from navigation and control systems, airframe design, power systems as well as developing new sensors for special application. We want to promote dialogue between researchers, designers, distributors and operators and give regulatory authorities an insight into their issues.

“The University of Canterbury is leading the UAV forum as we have had a track record of research in this technology for the last nine years.

“We have initiated the opening of two UAV flight test areas in Canterbury, formed the nucleus of the first UAV industry association in New Zealand and created the starting point for Airways to develop a central UAV flight planning and information web hub called Airshare.

“UAV technology can benefit not only New Zealand industry but the general public as well and many of these are areas where a conventional pilot would be in extreme danger such as high voltage power line inspections, forest fire monitoring and poor visibility operations.

“For emergency management and search and rescue applications, this technology can respond quickly at low cost. Fuel economy is a major benefit in many applications and we will probably see rural courier package deliveries by UAV in the next decade.

“We are also seeing UAVs at sports events such as cricket and they will be prominent during the 2015 Cricket World Cup which opens in Christchurch next week.”

The University of Canterbury will be the only institution in the Southern Hemisphere with restricted UAV flight test areas which will help the New Zealand industry and research community, as well as international partners, to develop leading edge UAV technology.