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.
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.
Government-owned Australia Post has announced its plans to trial the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) -- or drones -- to deliver small parcels around the country. According to the postal service, the closed-field trial, which is slated for later this year, is an important next step in testing the new technology which it hopes will result in the faster transportation of time critical items like medication, as well as simply keeping the online shopper happy. Australia Post managing director and CEO Ahmed Fahour let slip last month his interest in using drones to deliver parcels in rural Australia, saying when a driver stops at the farm gate of a property they could use a drone to deliver the mail to the door of the farmhouse, rather than complete the trip up an often long driveway. "We're excited to be the first major parcels and logistics company in Australia to test RPA technology for commercial delivery applications," Fahour said in a statement Friday. "We will put this innovative technology through its paces over the coming weeks and months to understand what it can deliver, how far it can travel, and ultimately, how our customers could receive a parcel.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has been instructed by a Senate committee to contact Chinese drone giant DJI to ascertain whether its Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) technology is suitable in an Australian climate. Geofencing essentially creates a virtual geographic boundary around an area using GPS or RFID technology. The software triggers a response when a mobile device enters or leaves the area, and prevents users of drones, as one example, from entering an area they are prohibited. Addressing the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee on Tuesday, CEO and Director of Aviation Safety at CASA Shane Carmody said that geofencing -- or creating a bubble around -- a drone is something the regulatory body is keen to explore. "If limiting a bubble around a drone is technically feasible and does mature to become that way, it is certainly a way that you could -- one of the methods you could use -- to control drones and manage some elements of the risk," Carmody told the committee, although he isn't sure the technology is as mature as advertised by the likes of DJI.
Commercial operators of "very small remotely piloted aircraft" will no longer be required to obtain a number of regulatory approvals to fly their unmanned vehicles under new regulations approved by the federal government. Under the changes, the regulatory requirements for remotely piloted aircraft are eased, with the term "unmanned aerial vehicle" (UAV) replaced by "remotely piloted aircraft" (RPA). The explanatory statement says this is to align itself with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) terminology. Director of Aviation Safety at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) Mark Skidmore said the regulation changes maintain appropriate safety standards while cutting red tape. "While safety must always come first, CASA's aim is to lighten the regulatory requirements where we can," Skidmore said.