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.
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.
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.
The Queensland government has announced it is deploying Ergon Energy internet-connected meters in the state's northern region as a "significant" step towards helping local farmers minimise the spread of Panama disease, a fungus that affects the tissues of the banana plant. Up to 600 meters will be installed in the Tully and Innisfail areas, where a majority of Australia's bananas are produced. Due to Panama TR4 biosecurity concerns and strict quarantine measures, Ergon -- a subsidiary of government-owned power company Energy Queensland Limited -- made the decision to stop all entry of their contract meter readers onto farms and install digital meters that could be read remotely, Energy Minister Mark Bailey has said. "Digital meters will avoid the need for meter readers to enter properties and therefore prevent the spread of the disease," the minister said in a statement. There will be no cost to banana farmers for switching to digital meters; however, all affected farmers will be required to accommodate the switchover in the upcoming months.
Domino's and Flirtey have launched the first commercial drone delivery service, aiming to soon deliver pizza via remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) straight to a customer's front door. Although headquartered in Brisbane, Australia, Domino's has chosen to kick off the DRU Drone initiative in Auckland, New Zealand, as the country's current regulations allow businesses to utilise unmanned aircraft. The demonstration was conducted under Civil Aviation Rules Part 101 and marks a final step in Flirtey's approval process. Domino's said it then expects to be able to trial store-to-door drone deliveries from a selected Domino's New Zealand stores with flights to customer homes tabled for later this year. "We are planning a phased trial approach which is based on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) granting approval, as both Domino's and Flirtey are learning what is possible with the drone delivery for our products, but this isn't a pie in the sky idea.