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Drones bug international airports but inspire Australia

July 4, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Just two weeks after a rash of unauthorised drones closed a runway at Singapore’s Changi Airport and affected 38 flights, Austrade has welcomed the coming World of Drones Congress, saying Australia stands to earn a lot of money through the rapidly growing drone industry.

Air New Zealand, meanwhile, has been testing whether it can use drones to inspect the condition of aircraft when they are on the tarmac undergoing heavy maintenance.

The airline’s chief ground operations officer Carrie Hurihanganui said aircraft inspections could be completed in “an hour or two” using a drone, saving up to five hours, depending on the type of aircraft.

On the dark side, a rogue drone over Changi Airport two weeks ago forced the airport to operate with just one runway.

Thirty-seven scheduled departure and arrival flights were delayed, one arriving flight was diverted to Kuala Lumpur, and 19 Singapore Airlines flights – mainly on Southwest Pacific, Southeast Asia, North Asia and Europe routes – were affected.

Unauthorised drone flying has caused airport disruptions around the world. Last December, in the busy runup to Christmas, London Gatwick airport was crippled for three days by a rogue drone operator, leading to the cancellation or diversion of about 1000 flights, spoiling the travel plans of about 150,000 passengers.

In Australia, however, the government is keen to point out the upside to drones. Up till  2022, the global uptake of drones – in agriculture, defence and health industries – is expected to power an expansion of the market, and Austrade says Australia is well placed to benefit.

Drone ready for takeoff

Drones are sometimes referred to ponderously as unmanned aerial systems (UAS), but the public continues to call them drones.

Between 2015 and 2022, the global commercial market in drones is forecast to grow from USD 4.01 billion to USD 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.

Australia alone hasre over 1200 drone operators who are rapidly developing technologies and services that “support the larger drone ecosystem”, Austrade says. Today, Australia is a growing hub for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) testing.

Recognising the need to accelerate and mature the commercial and corporate business aspects of the industry, the World of Drones Congress was created in 2017.

Air New Zealand uses drone to inspect aircraft

The World of Drones Congress will focus on the business of drones, and how drones can be applied to industry, business and the delivery of government services. The 2018 Congress focused on the burgeoning commercial applications of drones, including planning smart cities, training, agriculture, health and humanitarian needs. It also discussed drone laws, regulation and future jobs.

Co-founder and technical curator, Catherine Ball, believes that some large entities and potential customers concentrate on the risks of new drone technologies rather than the potential reward.

“The World of Drones Congress has created a platform where academics, start-ups, and large corporations and government departments can get together to talk about real-world applications – and the legal, risk, and health & safety aspects,’” she says.

“By doing this, we are able to dispel myths, and get rid of the ‘smoke and mirrors’ that can be accidentally created by the over-enthusiasm of emerging tech supporters.”

Now in its third edition, World of Drones Congress 2019 will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 26–27 September 2019. Over 1200 delegates from across the Asia-Pacific and beyond are expected to attend. The congress will feature a business expo with over 30 exhibitors from Australia, China and Japan.

German Luftwaffe 99-01 Northrop Grumman/Cassidian RQ-4B EuroHawk mock-up at ILA Berlin Air Show 2012.

The World of Drones Congress 2019 program will include a National Drone Safety Forum, as well as a National Drones Defence Industry Forum.

Written by Peter Needham

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