Drones have the potential to impact several verticals, reducing costs and safety risks while also unlocking innovative new use cases. But one of the flying robots’ biggest challenges will be with regulators who, understandably, demand high levels of public safety.
However, the pace of adoption has required regulators to act quickly to develop new standards to keep up with the emergent technology.
Drone delivery is already being trialled in Australia and industries like construction and utilities use the technology to monitor remote assets. The surge in drones or remotely piloted aircraft has led to an examination of existing regulations and calls for new ones in Australia.
This year the Australian Government Civil Aviation Safety Authority conducted a review of drones which found safety was the number one concern around the rising use, both commercially and recreationally. Its recommendations included a mandatory registration system for medium and large drones, continued education and training, and deploying geofencing to exclude drones from certain areas and altitudes.
“The most pressing, pervasive and persistent of these issues involves matters of safety, and the rational management of the risks the expanding use of RPA pose for other airspace users and for people and property on the surface,” the CASA review said, noting it will continue to consult with industry and drone users to develop new regulations.
The collaborative approach is a significant opportunity for companies to work with regulators to improve public safety and unlock the value of drones, according to Eden Attias, CEO of ASX-listed Parazero, a company that sells safety solutions for aerial systems, including drones.
Attias told Which-50 the surge in drone use and the potential value of the technology had left drone regulation in a “state of flux”.
“Regulators recognise the commercial value that drones offer to both private enterprise and government organisations,” Attias said.
“The original regulations did much to stifle widespread commercial adoption and truly innovative use cases, but this is slowly changing. Regulators around the world are now working with the drone industry to find solutions that continue to maintain public safety while at the same enabling this nascent technology to realise its full potential.”
Attias says regulations, along with safety and security are the key challenges to drones becoming more viable. “Drone jacking” is a real threat, Attias says, where valuable drones and their payloads are commandeered by third parties.
“Regulators around the world are now working with the drone industry to find solutions that continue to maintain public safety while at the same enabling this nascent technology to realise its full potential,” Attias said.
The potential of drones
Attias has little doubt about the potential of drones, telling Which-50, “Drones are such a disruptive technology that they will make a huge impact across all verticals.”
More obvious examples are the increasingly common aerial photography and filming, as well as the possibility of retailers delivering goods via air drops. But the value businesses are perhaps most excited about is maintenance and safety.
“We’re now seeing drones play a massive role in asset monitoring across oil and gas, energy, telecommunications and public infrastructure, as they are able to perform hazardous work and are cost-effective over wide areas,” Attias said.
One particularly innovative use case involves the telecommunication industry. According to Attias, drones are now being used to do much of the work that human tower climbers do, saving on labour and improving the safety of a notoriously dangerous task.
“Tower climbing has been recognised as one of the most hazardous jobs in the world. Nowadays, drones are being used to inspect the towers, capture live images and data, and send it to the telco automatically.
“In addition to saving lives, drones can carry out routine audits and inspections faster than they would have been done manually. The data captured by the drones is usually more reliable.”