New tech to open up skies for drone operations

Safe and fast approvals for drone operations in city skies across Australia are one step closer thanks to a new partnership between Airservices Australia and Queensland University of Technology.

Airservices and QUT will work together to develop new technologies and systems to give drone operators automatic and near real-time flight approvals, meaning products and services can reach people and places faster, without risking safety.

An automated and streamlined approvals system will allow services to be quickly scaled up in times of demand, such as emergencies and pandemics when communities need to be reached quickly.

Executive General Manager of Customer Service Enhancement Michelle Bennetts said Airservices is working hard to provide innovative and robust technological solutions which meet industry and community needs.

“We have already seen astonishing growth and innovation in drones across so many industry sectors such as mining, emergency services and farming, and no doubt there will be many more applications to come,” she said.

“To facilitate RPAS use and innovation for the benefit of Australia, we must ensure they are safely, securely and efficiently integrated into our national airspace system.”

This new drone management technology will eventually replace the current manual process, with the technology to be initially introduced at Australia’s major airports where the skies are busiest.

QUT researcher Dr Aaron McFadyen, who was awarded an Advance Queensland Industry Research Fellowship for the project, says developing a tool that streamlines the approval system will boost the safe use of drones in Queensland and across Australia.

“Emergencies, natural disasters and pandemics can cut people off from essential goods and services such as vital medication. Drones can carry these critical supplies, reach more people, up to 50 percent faster and with less human interaction,” he said.

“During a pandemic, disasters or non-pandemic environments, drone services could be scaled up to reach over 80 percent of our population.”

The collaboration will be in full swing from November this year.

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