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Commercial Drones Flying High in Australia
Australians are no strangers to new technology. As a nation of early adopters, we have insatiable appetites for tablets & smartphones. We’re big downloaders of apps, heavy internet users, and social networkers.
Drone technology is no different. Drones have been popular in countries like Canada for a while now, thanks to companies like DrDrone . But now they're growing in popularity in Australia too - and changes to commercial operator regulations, due out in September 2016, mean big opportunities for forward-thinking businesses who are looking to expand, develop or integrate drone tech on the horizon.
Drones are lifting off
Australia is considered a world leader in drone operations in non-segregated airspace.In May 2013, there were 33 CASA approved commercial drone licenses, and in just under three years, we have seen a 15 times increase, with 500 unmanned operators licenses issued.
CASA predicts this will grow further, and will issue over 600 commercial licenses by July 2016.
Big players, like Dominos Pizza and Australia Post have also been busy, developing delivery drones to use as part of their distribution services. And insurer IAG is using drones to speed up the assessment process for bushfire claims.
New regulations for commercial drone operators
From September 29th 2016, Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) will introduce new regulations for lower risk drones or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), as amendments to Part 101 have been registered.
It proposes that lightweight drones weighing under 2kg can be flown by commercial operators without the need for an UAV operators certificate (UOC) or a remote pilot license (RePL).It will require commercial operators to provide notification to CASA at least five days before the first commercial flight and operate by the standard operating conditions.
This change will significantly open up the commercial use of the smaller lower-risk drones in terms of lowering costs, reducing legal requirements and increasing speed to market.
It will also allow private landowners to carry out commercial-like operations on their own land with a small RPA, without requiring an UOC or a RePL, provided they follow the standard operating conditions, and do not receive remuneration.
CASA, together with the industry, will also develop a new manual of standards, to deal with more complex operational issues and aim to increase its flexibility and responsiveness in this rapidly evolving industry.
Why the change?
The Australian Association for Unmanned Systems (AAUS), Australia’s industry advocacy group for unmanned systems, held a conference, RPAS in Australian skies,in March 2016. High-level international and local representatives attended, from Australian industry, government and academia.
Mr Mark Skidmore, Director of Aviation Safety at CASA, during his keynote speech, said “that CASA’s absolute number one priority is safety”, however, he is dedicated to support, rather than restricting unmanned aerial technologies.
The industry identified that the regulations are needed to keep in line with increasingly capable technology, and the changing operational needs of the sector. They also recognised that the processing of an ever-increasing number of regulatory applications was not sustainable.
What does this mean for drone businesses in Australia?
With favourable new regulations, and new technological developments in intelligent RPAs, there is no doubt that economic growth in this industry will increase.
New opportunities for drone use in business will be created, and businesses will rethink how they complete certain business processes, leading to more cost effective and time saving methods.
A study undertaken in the US calculates that 100,000 jobs will be created by the US drone industry by 2025. Now, imagine the opportunities for the Australian drone industry when these new regulations come into play!