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Local government’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones as they are more commonly known, was put on display in Bundaberg this week, with more than 40 businesses and council representatives from the Wide Bay region discussing the technology.

Hosted by the Bundaberg Regional Council, the forum attracted councillors and senior staff, drone experts V-tol, law firm King and Co, neighbouring councils, the LGAQ and LGIS.

Key topics included the legalities of introducing council drone services as well as the benefits of using drones as part of asset management, pest and plant management, disaster management and mapping.

Councils also focussed their obligations in investing in drone technology.

LGAQ chief executive Greg Hallam said drones were a text-book example of where buying a service instead of investing in the asset should be a key decision for any business model.

“The devices themselves are rapidly changing, not only in design and capability, but in areas like camera lens optics and battery life – you can quickly invest in a technology orphan,” Mr Hallam said.

He said another major issue for councils was the regulatory environment.

“The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is effectively treating these devices as aircraft so there are stringent requirements around users being properly accredited, devices meeting specific standards and a plethora of record keeping involving things like flight plans, log books and maintenance,” he said.

“Even if you meet these requirements, consideration then needs to be given to ensuring the data that is captured is able to be used and stored securely, while able to be integrated with existing Council systems,” he said.

At the Bundaberg demonstration day, fixed wing and rotor drones captured different types of data using mapping and infra-red sensors from the Qanaba Landfill.

A report showing the interpretation of the data, down to 10mm accuracy, was completed that afternoon, demonstrating the quick turnaround time from capturing the data to being able to make analytical decisions.

The LGAQ’s Bush Councils Convention in St George on 29-31 July will also feature a presentation and live demonstration of drone technology.

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DJI, the largest manufacturer of consumer multirotor drones in the world and a keen proponent of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) being used in industry, has said it does not believe Amazon’s drone delivery dreams are feasible in the near future.

“What a lot of people are asking themselves is ‘will I look up and see a sky full of drones?’ It’s impossible to predict the future but the way we see the market moving right now, something like that is really unlikely in the near future of five to 10 years,” DJI’s global PR manager Michael Perry told IBTimes UK.

“What we do see is drones… being used in agriculture, construction or film-making where you have a very localised field for using these platforms so that they’re away from population centres.”

Perry’s comments were made at the London press conference launching the DJI Phantom 3 line of drones on 8 April.

The drone manufacturer introduced two new models with improved new sensors and an additional camera for sensing the drone’s position at all times that enables operators to maintain a better control of their UAV even when GPS signals and line of sight are not available.

It is possible DJI’s emphasis with the launch of a flight simulator app to train pilots, and a new section on its website called Fly Safe that includes a large database of all the no-fly zones in the world and a plethora of safety tips, could all be the manufacturer’s way of trying to make drone flights safer and hopefully convince regulators to be less harsh on businesses that seek to use the UAVs.

“There’s a variety of things that DJI is doing both in the software and also proactively working hand in hand with regulators to promote safe, smart, responsible drone usage,” Perry said.

“I think ultimately regulators and manufacturers want the same thing, which is safe skies that are also open to innovation. We’re engaged in the Nasa Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management (UTM) project and we’ve also been at the forefront of developing geofencing solutions for our platforms.”

No-fly zones and height caps

Perry adds that in 2014, DJI introduced no fly zones at 720 locations in the world, including all airports, and set a height cap in the areas near to airports as well.

“Every emerging technology has a period where people don’t quite know what to think about it. Certainly there are risks, but there are also significant opportunities”

– Michael Perry

“We saw a really enthusiastic reaction to this from not just regulators but also drone enthusiasts, who realise that as the technology becomes more commercially available and widely adopted, not everybody knows the rules of the road before they take off, and this is a technological solution that helps bridge that gap,” he said.

According to Baroness O’Cathain, the chair of the House of Lords EU Committee, the most common feedback from the UK public was the fear of being spied on, together with being worried that drones would drop out of the sky and fall on their heads.

But Perry believes drones are not nearly as dangerous as other technologies can be. He said: “Every emerging technology has a period where people don’t quite know what to think about it. Certainly there are risks, but there are also significant opportunities.

“Cars, helicopters and planes have a wide number of fatal accidents on a daily basis. I think it is really remarkable that these [UAV] systems have logged literally millions and millions of flight hours without a significant incident so far.”

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The Federal Aviation Administration has established an interim policy to speed up airspace authorizations for certain commercial unmanned aircraft (UAS) operators who obtain Section 333 exemptions. The new policy helps bridge the gap between the past process, which evaluated every UAS operation individually, and future operations after we publish a final version of the proposed small UAS rule.

Under the new policy, the FAA will grant a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for flights at or below 200 feet to any UAS operator with a Section 333 exemption for aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds, operate during daytime Visual Flight Rules (VFR) conditions, operate within visual line of sight (VLOS) of the pilots, and stay certain distances away from airports or heliports:

  • 5 nautical miles (NM) from an airport having an operational control tower; or
  • 3 NM from an airport with a published instrument flight procedure, but not an operational tower; or
  • 2 NM from an airport without a published instrument flight procedure or an operational tower; or
  • 2  NM from a heliport with a published instrument flight procedure

The “blanket” 200-foot COA allows flights anywhere in the country except restricted airspace and other areas, such as major cities, where the FAA prohibits UAS operations. Previously, an operator had to apply for and receive a COA for a particular block of airspace, a process that can take 60 days. The agency expects the new policy will allow companies and individuals who want to use UAS within these limitations to start flying much more quickly than before.

Section 333 exemption holders will automatically receive a “blanket” 200 foot COA. For new exemption holders, the FAA will issue a COA at the time the exemption is approved. Anyone who wants to fly outside the blanket parameters must obtain a separate COA specific to the airspace required for that operation.

– See more at:

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Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authorities (CASA) initiative ten years ago to legislate regulations and a pathway for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) commercialization in Australia has resulted in the world’s first aviation authority approved Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) pilot training program.

Brisbane based V-TOL Aerospace Pty Ltd, has gained that coveted approval from CASA and will deliver its programs under the Australian Unmanned Systems Academy (AUSA) brand at Marburg, near RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland.

The full time two-week training program involves both theory and practical flying instruction which if students are successful, secures them a CASA issued ‘Remote Pilot’s Certificate’ allowing them to be employed as pilots in the commercial UAV industry.
V-TOL Director, Kelvin Hutchinson confirmed that the first training program will be held later in May and that interest in the program is very encouraging in Australia and overseas.

“Its taken four years in close collaboration with CASA to achieve this major milestone in Australia”. “We have significant interest from course applicants as well as major aviation interests overseas that want to establish similar programs” said Mr Hutchinson.

Click here to visit the AUS Academy website

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Senior students from Maryborough State High School recently visted V-TOL’s Marburg Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS/UAV) Flight Training facility.  The aim of the visit was to introduce the students to RPAS technology, show them how RPAS pilots are being trained in the civilian sector and the applications RPAS technology is and will be used for.

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V-TOL is committed to collaborative & applied R&D. Working with our project partners, V-TOL’s R&D primarily focuses on taking new Australian ideas and innovative technologies from the lab to the Nation’s ‘core’ economic industries. V-TOL’s aim is to establish a sustainable supply chain of clever products & services that are cost-effective, can value-add to Australia’s GDP & can be exported to the rapidly emerging global market opportunity.