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Australian government offering AU$60m in grants to encourage smart farming


The Australian federal government has announced it is offering AU$60 million in grants to support "smart farming partnerships" under the AU$1 billion National Landcare Program.

Queensland amends legislation to allow drone use on farms


The Queensland government has announced amended legislation that now allows the state's farmers to use drones to spray their crops. Acting Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said the changes to the Agricultural Chemicals Distribution Control Act 1966 and the regulations that underpin it will give Queensland farmers access to the most "innovative aerial spraying technology" available. "The government is keen to give our producers all the advantages made available by advances in technology," Byrne said. "The improvements to the legislation provide Queensland producers with cost effective options for crop protection." Byrne expects the technology to be especially useful for chemical application in areas with limited access or difficult terrain, noting that where conventional equipment cannot be used, spraying from an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) represents a safe and effective option.

Queensland Police floats use of drones to fight crime: Report


Townsville MP Scott Stewart reportedly wants the Queensland Police Force to look into the use of drone technology in an effort to curb what has been called a crime crisis in the state's north. According to local media, the MP believes drones are considerably cheaper than helicopters and can be launched within seconds -- travelling in excess of 100 kilometres per hour, with a range of around 7 kilometres -- from a police vehicle. "What I've been trying to do is look at as many different solutions as possible, and cutting-edge drone technology is so much cheaper than a police helicopter," Stewart is quoted as saying. "We need to use the technology now and in the future to fight crime, not costly and old technology like helicopters." Stewart has reportedly put forward his proposal to newly appointed Police Minister Mark Ryan, who is expected to raise the left-field idea with senior police on Thursday.

Queensland government to inject AU 1m into drone technology


The Queensland government has announced a AU 1 million investment in remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) technology, expected to benefit the LNG, agriculture, mining, energy, telecommunications, search and rescue, and environmental management industries. In addition to the cash injection, the state government has partnered with aerospace giant The Boeing Company, in conjunction with Boeing subsidiary Insitu Pacific, Shell's QGC project, and Telstra to further the drone research. Local small to medium-sized businesses specialising in related technology such as aerial photography, surveying, product development, and training for drone operators will also be consulted as part of the venture. "The project aims to capitalise on the capabilities inherent in drones to carry out remote-monitoring and inspection of key infrastructure and data analysis to allow for better decision-making," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a statement. In addition to creating 500 new jobs, Palaszczuk said she expects the technologies to be developed will include an improved airspace situational awareness prototype system that will enable the safe operation of RPAs over a broad area, as well as tools for enhanced data analytics.

Google testing drone deliveries of medicines and burritos in Australia


Project Wing, born from Alphabet's X innovation lab, has announced that discount pharmacy chain Chemist Warehouse and Mexican food chain Guzman y Gomez will be trialling its drone delivery technology in Australia. Customers who have purchased items from Chemist Warehouse and Guzman y Gomez using the Project Wing app on their smartphones will have their orders delivered to their homes via drone. James Ryan Burgess, project lead at Project Wing, wrote in a blog post on Tuesday that the company is looking to better understand how much notice needs to be provided to Guzman y Gomez staff for a drone's arrival so that they can prepare orders in a "well-timed workflow". "[We'll] need to make sure our technology fits in smoothly into their kitchen operations, as their staff have to juggle many orders at once to ensure that every customer is served fresh, hot food in a timely fashion," he wrote. In the case of Chemist Warehouse, Burgess said Project Wing wants to ensure its system can deliver a wide variety of products, including vitamins, dental care, sun care, and over-the-counter medicines.