The State of Drones, Australia
Drone technology in Australia has seen a marked increase in interest but a lack of progress with legislation. But few can answer ‘what are the drone laws in Australia?’
Nintendo’s technological innovations in the last 5 years have paved the way for the drones you see today.
Founders and investors need to stay wary of future legislative changes and fully understand laws on drones in Australia.
There is a bottom-up approach within large corporations where employees are bringing in their own drones to create efficiencies.
Interest in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), or drones, has dramatically increased in recent years. This brings along a new opportunity for Australian companies to scale up their technology, as well as reveals a foreign territory that demands legislation. Once integrated, the potential will be unlocked and applied to countless sectors. Drones with cameras, drones with spray nozz
les, drones with the capability to lift upwards of 50kg landing us in a transitory phase and in a sense, a technological revolution.
For most, innovation in this space is an alien concept. However, for AJ Verma, an executive, and engineer in the field, this is familiar ground. He revealed to The Venture how this technology didn’t develop overnight and instead relied on collaboration between industries to reach the level it is at now. Whilst the first drones took to the skies in the 70s, the turn of the century saw the necessary components become readily accessible. In fact, it was none other than the ‘Nintendo Wii’ that brought the same hardware needed for flight control into everyday life, and this occurred simultaneously with elements like lithium batteries and BLDC motors reducing in cost. The exponential growth of technology has reached a point where its capabilities can’t be ignored.
“It’s an exciting time to be involved in this industry, the world is changing significantly and we are on the cusp of a transport revolution with drones on land, in the sea, and in the air.”
As for Australian companies, where do we stand? Verma has faith that although the industry hasn’t infiltrated mainstream economics, the foundations are there. “I do believe Australia is a good place to start developing these technologies, leveraging off R&D tax incentives, commercial and defence grants & partnerships allow for R&D and market exploration.” The biggest issue is that of scale – investors currently involved have found success chasing volume markets overseas. “This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a symptom of an industry being simultaneously heavily regulated and filled with cowboys.”
Paul New, a consultant, and executive director at ‘The Institute of Drone Technology’ explained how despite this smaller scale, Australia has made a shift towards using drones commercially in recent years. From agriculture to infrastructure, drone technology is being taken on board at a rapid rate. Being slightly behind the curve compared to countries such as America isn’t a bad thing, as New reveals. We have the chance to understand the international drone legislation landscape and adapt this in our domestic legislation.
The US is yet to shift its model to be more customer-friendly and relax its strict regulations, thus more progressive countries may become the targets for further drone investments. Validating actual customer-centric metrics and finding appropriate solutions to issues are concerns that most start-ups face, so this is in no way new territory. Verma attributes most of his success, and the ability to make a positive impact on communities, to being customer-focused with his ambitions.
Satisfying the demand whilst also adhering to the necessary legal requirements is the main challenge the drone industry faces, essentially – to be successful, “don’t get caught out”, according to New. Paul divulged to The Venture stating many executives, CXO’s and boards who have their eye on aerospace technology are unaware of the appropriate licences and it is this lack of knowledge that poses the greatest threat to companies. Questions around training, materials, and regulations are prevalent and must be addressed within Australia if the true potential of drones is to be realised.
“How do we train the pilots? How do we manage the traffic? How do we create reliable supply chains of talent, materials, components? How do we regulate autonomy?” (Verma). Looking at the past where other innovations have tackled similar issues is an effective way to grasp the reality of future legislation. 10 years ago, electric cars were a new initiative, and commercial ambitions in the space posed similar risks to what drones face now. Yet now, there isn’t a manufacturer in the automotive industry that can risk turning a blind eye to electric transportation.
So, what’s in the immediate future? Paul New has alluded to the current use of drones in Australia stems from a Bottom-up approach colloquially known as the ‘Bring Your Own Drone’ (BYOD) model…and it’s gaining traction. BYOD, meaning employees bringing their technology into organisations, both enterprise, and government, and applying the technology to their respective fields. This is similar to the “Bring Your Own Device” model many schools have embodied, allowing students to boost their educational experience. “This empowerment of the workforces through the so-called ‘consumerisation of IT’ has increased productivity and reduced costs” (New).
Thank you to our contributors:
Paul New – LinkedIn Profile
An early adopter and believer in the disruption economies like Drones and Digital, Paul began his Tech journey seven years ago, after establishing a successful executive career in Business Turnarounds, Risk and Security Management.