New Zealand’s newest fit-for-purpose test range for commercial drones has opened its skies to the world and plans to trial the delivery of medical supplies in November.
The trial, with Medical Drones Aotearoa, will include tests that explore the safe delivery of medicines, and flights that are beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and autonomous – with the ability for a pilot to take control of the craft remotely.
Test range Administrator and Medical Drones Aotearoa founder, Robyn Kamira, says around 14% of patients in low socio-economic and rural areas don’t pick up their medicines and even more ration their medicines to make them last longer.
“The medical and crisis support drone trials will lead to a high-quality, high-value service that will make a real difference to people’s lives. We’re focused on supporting communities that may otherwise be overlooked when it comes to deploying leading edge technologies for services.”
Once the trials are complete, Medical Drones Aotearoa is aiming to start its first regular service in March 2018 pending Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approvals.
The CAA recently released a new regulatory framework which has opened NZ airspace to unmanned air vehicles operated by remote, ground-based pilots working under strict conditions. In combination with the new framework, the Hokianga test range, dubbed “Incredible Skies”, provides an opportunity to extend drone technology research in New Zealand and internationally.
The test area is 874 square kilometres in the Hokianga region and has been established as a commercial drone technologies testing platform. It’s a place to design, build, and test drones; research and trial flights; and even compete in drone racing. Kamira says she’s had a number of inquiries from overseas and local companies wanting to get their CAA approvals and schedule trials. She sees the future of drones as big business.
“Analysts predict that commercial drones will be worth more than USD$11.2b by 2020 (Source: Gartner 2017) and US researchers consider there’s a USD$13b market opportunity for drones in commercial and civil government sectors (2016-2020) (Source: Goldman Sachs Research 2017)
Pilots of manned aircraft have recently expressed their desire to see CAA rules reviewed to keep the skies safe, and Kamira says the Hokianga airspace is away from airports and all trials will be compliant with regulations.
“The Incredible Skies test range uses high quality trial standards that will support drone operators wanting to set themselves apart. The processes not only meet CAA regulatory requirements but add a level of operations best practice so that drone trialists, aviators and communities can be confident that safety is well-managed.”
Robyn Kamira is calling for drone companies and technologists to apply to take part in upcoming medical drone trials or schedule their own by visiting the Incredible Skies website: https://www.incredibleskies.nz