Australia is the latest country to test drone delivery for small parcels, joining the Swiss Post, Singapore Post, DHL in Germany, and Amazon and Google in the US in testing drone programs. But Australian experts say that Australia Post could be one of the first to implement a drone delivery program, using drones in remote rural areas within 12 months. The company has begun trialling drones in remote areas of Queensland, selecting drones as they work with authorities to receive the appropriate licensing.
Australia has taken a lead position in drone integration, with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) claiming to be the first authority in the world to put rules in place. CASA published its first set of drone regulations in 2002, and is currently working on revisions to the original code. Drones are already heavily utilized in the Australian agriculture industry, providing critical monitoring of very large tracts of farmland.
Current CASA regulations state that commercial drones must carry out routine operations in light of sight of the drone operator in daylight hours, under an altitude of 400 feet, and at a minimum distance of 30 meters of populous areas. Authorities say that these regulations could be adjusted to a minimum distance of 15 meters with permission; and commercial operators can apply for an exemption to the line of sight requirement. While current regulations would seem to preclude the use of drones for parcel delivery in urban areas of Australia, Australia Post hopes to implement them quickly in sparsely populated rural areas.
Australia Post may be hoping that drones will cut their costs of delivery significantly; last year the agency reported a loss of $222 million Australian dollars.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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