UAV trials - unlocking the potential of low-altitude airspace

How can the City benefit from drone technologies?

Drone technology can help us do things faster, smarter and safer for our community. Some of our services are already trialling drones, and there are many more possibilities to explore, including:

  • Coastline mapping – high-quality images could help us monitor coastal changes and erosion.
  • Tree inspections – tree growth and health could be more safely monitored from the ground.
  • Building and roof maintenance – our buildings could be inspected and maintained without the need for working at heights.
  • 3D data collection – high-quality photographic surveys could capture our growing and changing region for the benefit of planners, surveyors and architects.

What’s currently being done?

We’re currently working in partnership with Telstra Labs and Thales to trial a prototype air traffic control system that will make it safer for drones to share airspace with regular aircraft. The system will allow drone flights that meet certain criteria to gain automatic approval to fly in low-altitude airspace – that is, below 400 feet. To be approved for flight, applicants would need to share information such as the proposed drone flight path, the details of the pilot and the reason for the flight. This system would be managed by Thales.

Why is this system required?

The current system used to manage low-altitude airspace is complex and slow. This is significantly limiting drone use across services and industries.

With the technical capability to monitor and safely coordinate flights, it will it be easier for people to seek and gain approval to fly and open many new opportunities to use drone technology.

How will the system work?

This system will make dynamic airspace management possible. This means there will be clear information available about who is flying where and for what reasons, so that drone pilots can be notified by authorities in near-real-time if they’re required to change their flight path or land to clear airspace in emergencies.

Why is the system being tested in Geelong?

Telstra Labs and Thales approached the City of Greater Geelong in 2019 to help trial the system and give the project a local perspective. Other reasons why Geelong is a good fit include;

  • our geographic size and diversity, including urban, suburban, coastal and rural areas, makes our location the perfect testbed.
  • the project fits with our clever and creative vision and community-led aspiration to be ‘a leader in developing and adopting technology’.
  • we have a dedicated Smart City Office with the capacity to support the trial, CASA-certified drone pilots and drone project experience.

What are the benefits of this project?

By supporting innovation, we attract new industries. This in turn creates new employment opportunities and a stronger, more resilient economy.

Drone technology can also help us do things faster, smarter and safer for our community.

What about privacy, safety and security?

This system will make it easier to know who is flying, when and for what purpose. Requiring pre-approvals for all flights will help reduce potential privacy violations and improve community safety.

From a safety perspective, greater use of drones in everyday service delivery should reduce occupational health and safety risks by enabling employees to inspect, monitor and maintain assets without having to scale heights.

Although the system for managing drones will be new, all pilots will still need to adhere to the rules established by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Page last updated: Tuesday, 27 October 2020