Drones, also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), are seeing a rapid rise in use across Australia. Technological development is enabling more, diverse applications of drones, from agriculture, to infrastructure inspections, to food delivery.
From pizza deliveries, crowd control and aerial surveillance to the more bizarre uses such as collecting whale snot, drone technology offers unprecedented opportunity to provide improvements in safety, efficiency and innovation across all industries in Australia and beyond.
And it is not just the boundless uses that drone technology and their sophistication can bring to industry and society in general. There now lie unlimited opportunities in the complexity, choice and implications for drone use.
Let’s look at the current Australian drone industry
The Australian commercial drone industry is maturing as regulators, major players, operators and the public come to terms with this emerging technology. While analysts predict the global drone market will top $11bn annually by 2026, the precise social and legal impacts are more difficult to anticipate.
In Australia alone, there are over 1600 certified commercial drone operators (not including the 14,000 registered small commercial drone users), who are rapidly developing technologies and services that support the larger drone ecosystem.
Between 2015 and 2022, the global commercial market in UAS is forecast to grow from US$4.01 billion to US$5.04 billion according to a 2018 report by Frost & Sullivan.
Importantly for Australia, Asia-Pacific is at the heart of this growth and regional revenues are expected to surpass North American revenues by 2022.
Asia-Pacific will remain the largest non-defence market through 2030.
Autonomous systems and wide-scale urban drone operations are predicted by industry to be available in the next 5 to 10 years.
Regulating the Australian Drone Industry
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) are the governing body in Australia for drones. This authority makes the regulations, safety rules and the penalties, as well as issuing the remote pilot licenses and registrations.
The innovativeness of drone technology, its widening application and potential effects on others, technology, infrastructure, drone use can cross over to other legislations that drone companies and innovators may need to be aware of.
For example, noise pollution through the environmental legislation of EPA, operating over private residential areas comes under the privacy legislation, air, rail, road environments may be affected by the transport legislation and safety legislation.
From 1 July 2021, an annual registration levy for commercially operated drones will be introduced. For drones flown for business or used as part of your job, all drones weighing not more than 500g, will still require annual registration but there will be no associated charge. Drones weighing from more than 500g, an annual registration levy of $40 per drone will come into effect.
What’s happening in Australian drone companies?
Australia is currently an attractive investment hub for international drone companies and has been now for a number of years.
This is a Houston-based company, that provides data acquisition, processing, and analytics from the unmanned vehicles particularly for the energy sector.
Their aim is for the unmanned aerial vehicles to increase safety, time savings in the collection of data and operational performance, improve detection and response times across every project.
A Japanese company that set up Australian operations in early 2017, Terra Drone develops surveying drones to streamline mining, oil and gas, power and pipeline constructions. Their drone technology operates at one-third the cost of traditional methods and takes one-fifth of the time.
‘Loyal Wingman’ project
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has designed a large drone for electronic warfare and reconnaissance missions, in risky environments to send manned aircraft.
Queensland University of Technology
In a world first using drone technology in this capacity, the university will deploy drones to survey and collate data and high-resolution imagery on koala numbers throughout South East Queensland.
Drone Technology Opportunities
There are extraordinary opportunities for the widespread take-up of unmanned aerial vehicles in Australia.
To unlock this potential, the large telecommunications companies, such as Telstra and their Telstra Labs, are investigating how their 4G and 5G mobile technology and IoT capabilities can be used to make secure and reliable communication, navigation and monitoring of UAVs possible. Telstra is also working with partners in the development of new products, services and innovations in the UAV industry.
Expansion into other industries and uses
Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), also called by its extended name – Extended Visual Line of Sight (EVLOS) – is now regulated in CASA’s Drone Manual of Standards (MOS). However, there are several conditions BVLOS drone operators that need to adhere to.
This important move has led Australia into a growing hub for BVLOS testing. New commercial facilities capable of supporting certain types of drone testing, including testing for some military applications are being developed.
Airobotics, the leading Israeli automated drone startup, received Australia’s first and only CASA approval to operate automated multi-rotor drones from its Remote Operations Centre (ROC) beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) with no aircrew needed at the client site.
UAV Industry Integration
Not only are there limitless drone technology applications that can be applied to industry, business and the delivery of government services, there is increasing growth in spinoff innovative technologies to support the drone industry.
DroneLogbook, global leaders in compliance and tracking software for commercial drone operators. They also are actively working with partners to provide the tools a business needs to optimise their drone operations workflow. Their Australian office is located in Armidale, NSW.
Thales, in collaboration with Telstra, is developing a prototype air traffic control platform called Low Altitude Airspace Management (LAAM). LAAM can integrate both manned and unmanned aerial vehicles and providing automated drone flight approvals. Their near real-time notifications will allow drone pilots to change course for a first responder and enable the instructions to be relayed to the drone efficiently and safely.
Challenges within the Australian Drone industry
Training and education
The speed of drone innovation into the Australian market challenges assurances that all operators and drone businesses have the expertise and background in the industry they are serving. Drone companies and applications not only need the experience and skills in the industry they are working within, they also need to be qualified in the use of drone technology.
This gap is currently being filled by a handful of training organisations in Australia but future demands for training may be warranted as well as check and balances in drone companies’ expertise in the industry they are operating in.
Opening drone capability to other businesses
The Australian drone market to date is filled with mature organisations such as mining, linear transport and civil contracting, implementing and using drone technology into their daily business practices. Mature companies understand and more importantly, know how to leverage this sophisticated technology.
Drone technology needs to be open and available to less mature or smaller businesses.
Ready for take-off in Australia?
The Australian government is eager for new global drone companies to join our expanding market and demand for this limitless technology. Opening an Australian company will give your business easy access to Asia-Pacific, a market predicted to be greater than the US by 2022. The Abdera team is ready to help your drone business fly across the region and navigate the opportunities. Partner with us by calling our office on +61 2 8916 6259 or contact us here.
There’s more help!
If you are contemplating doing business in Australia, choosing the structure of your Australian entity will be one of your considerations. Read our blog on Branch vs Subsidiary – it includes an easy to compare table.
Abdera have helped many overseas businesses import goods into Australia, and we work closely with several professional freight forwarders to help our clients. Here’s our quick guide – How do I import goods into Australia?