Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Opportunities for Wisconsin exporters with drone applications

In 2015, Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia (CASA) spokesman Peter Gibson was quoted as saying that CASA was being inundated with an unprecedented number of applications to commercially operate drones: "They're being used in agriculture, mining, by police forces, fire brigades, aerial photography, survey work, mapping, all sorts of things… and the applications people are putting them to broadens all the time.” In September 2016, new, relaxed drone regulations come into force, and it is expected that this will help the industry take off.

When the CASA legislation takes effect, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) under the weight of 2 kg will be allowed to be operated for hire or reward without a UAV Controller’s Certificate or a company Operator’s Certificate. In addition, owners of UAVs under the weight of 25 kg will also be able to operate them without Controller or Operator certification over land owned/occupied by the operator, as long as no remuneration is received.

Changes in the legislation have been welcomed by business, government and research institutions. It is expected to lead to increases in:

  • the number of end users owning and operating drones;
  • the use of pilot programs and increased investment by private industry;
  • funding from governments, research organizations and industry for innovation trials; and
  • advances in the software programs driving the machines, which could broaden the possibilities of how they are used.

The use of drones is not tied to just one sector, and Australian industry is actively seeking and testing new applications. Wisconsin exporters with proven drone applications are encouraged to directly approach relevant industry associations and major players to introduce their products and applications. These recent industry articles and examples illustrate the increased appetite for exploring and investing in drone technology.

  • UAV inspections are being tested and adopted by a growing number of utilities to streamline and enhance the asset inspection process. Melbourne Water, for example, has been quoted as saying that they will look to a panel of suppliers for UAV application.
  • Farmers are claiming that drones are the most exciting tool in agriculture in 20 years. The new rules mean farmers will no longer need approval from CASA to fly drones on their own land. While some farmers have started to dip their toes into hobby drones, the new rules should give them the confidence to invest in drone technology tailored to agricultural use, e.g., the Queensland sugarcane industry is considering the potential of drones.
  • Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is funding a GPS-free collision avoidance sensor allowing UAVs and drone devices to fly autonomously near infrastructure and in GPS-free environments, with the potential to rapidly advance the booming UAV and drone markets into new areas such as parcel delivery services.
  • The 2016 Defense White Paper also committed extra funds for building up fleets of drones.