Ready for takeoff: Canberra drone base gets the green light
The ACT Planning and Land Authority has approved Wing's plans for a household delivery drone hangar in Mitchell, marking another milestone in the tech company's bid to launch its world-first operation in Canberra's north.
Wing has been given the green light to redevelop an existing warehouse on Vicars Street as a base for its fleet of delivery drones, which it hopes to launch into Gungahlin, Harrison, Franklin, Palmerston and Crace by the middle of the year.
The $1.1 million refurbishment will include an alteration of the warehouse's facade, reduction in the size of an existing store room, construction of a new pump and installation of "additional site services".
The base would include food preparation areas for businesses delivering their products as part the service, and be staffed by about 24 employees.
In its submission to the ACT Assmbly's drone inquiry, the company said it was also keen for school and university students to visit the Mitchell base to learn about aviation and drone technology.
"The majority of Wing's engineering team were passionate about aviation and technology at an early age, and are excited to share their experiences and work with students in the ACT," the submission stated.
"Wing's site in Mitchell will be the first of its kind in the world, offering a truly unique opportunity for students to see and be inspired by what is taking place in their community."
While approval of the base is a boost for Wing, the Google-linked operation still needs to obtain permission from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority before it can start flights.
The authority has started the assessment process, but does not have a firm timeline for a decision.
Wing's delivery drones have stirred controversy during trials in the Canberra region, particularly in Bonython.
The high-pitched noise emitted during flights emerged as the most common criticism from locals, who complained it caused disturbances to residents, pets and wildlife. Wing has since developed a quieter model drone, which it will roll out for the Gungahlin operation.
Attorney-General Gordan Ramsay this month told the assembly's drone inquiry that the ACT government had "very limited" powers to regulate the technology, including noise.
Air Services Australia has oversight of aircraft noise, although it does not set or enforce limits. There are no federal drone noise regulations.
In approving Wing's Mitchell base, the authority reaffirmed that drones were exempt from local noise regulations under the ACT's Environment Protection Act.
Dan Jervis-Bardy is a Canberra Times reporter.