‘Far beyond delivering coffee’: govt enthusiastic on drone deliveries
The ACT government has given its strongest endorsement yet of delivery drones, as tech-company Wing awaits the green light to launch its service in Canberra's northern suburbs.
While the Barr government has been supportive of Wing's presence in the Canberra region, including helping it secure land for its controversial Bonython trial, it has avoided expressing a view on the technology, and its long-term presence in the ACT.
But in a statement to The Canberra Times, a government spokesman was enthusiastic about the benefits of delivery drones in the nation's capital.
"The potential of drones goes far beyond delivering a cup of coffee and could extend to emergency response, geographical mapping, improving time poor Canberrans’ quality of life and supporting people with a disability," the spokesman said.
"We are supporting new industries and the creation of clean, high-tech jobs in the territory. The ACT government will continue to work with Wing Australia and other innovators to help them realise new technologies with tangible social and economic benefits for Canberra."
The spokesman said Wing, like any other business, would have to comply with ACT laws, but stressed the approval and regulation of its service rested with the commonwealth's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
The US-based company late last year applied to the authority to launch a permanent delivery service in Canberra's north, which would be based in Mitchell and offer deliveries to Gungahlin, Franklin, Palmerston, Crace and Harrison.
A spokeswoman for the authority said it was continuing to assess the application, but could not comment on when it might be finalised.
The Canberra Times understands Wing has sought the same exemptions that enabled its Bonython trial, including permission to fly an aircraft within 30 metres of a person and to operate in a populated area.
Wing has been undertaking extensive community consultation with the Gungahlin community in the past three months, ahead of its planned expansion into the area in mid-2019.
It comes as it enters the final weeks of its trial in Bonython. The trial divided the local community since flights began in the middle of last year.
While some residents have used and enjoyed the innovative service, a highly-organised community action group has repeatedly voiced concerns about drone noise, invasions of privacy and an apparent lack of oversight from government authorities.
The ACT Assembly will this year hold an inquiry into drone delivery technology. It will explore potential economic benefits, environmental impacts and gaps in regulation.
Submissions to the inquiry are open until February 22.
Dan Jervis-Bardy is a Canberra Times reporter.