I live in Bonython, the only suburb in the world undergoing a full commercial drone delivery trial. Pretty cool, hey? Well, that’s what I thought and so I signed up to the trial.
Project Wing, a subsidiary of global giant Google is running the trial. They’ve been given a patch of land out west of Tuggeranong Town Centre and for a few months, they’ve been delivering burritos, coffee, headache tablets and chocolates directly to homes in Bonython.
This trial could well shape the future of commercial drone delivery around the world and I was tickled pink that it was happening in my suburb.
As a local member of parliament, I took it upon myself to get fully across the trial. So, a few months ago, I got on the phone app in my front yard and ordered four Guzman Y Gomez burritos. They arrived less than 10 minutes after I made the order. I was blown away.
When the trial was first announced, there were a number of dissenting voices in my local community. These people were against the concept of drone delivery mainly for privacy and safety reasons. I suggested that they should wait and see how it affected them once it was in operation and I figured their opposition would dissipate. I was wrong.
Once the trial commenced, the ‘anti voices’ grew in number and volume. They appealed to me to ‘shut the trial down’, or at least to oppose it in whatever way I could. I had some passionate conversations in shopping centres and online because I wouldn’t back away from supporting the trial. The noise-sensitive folk of Bonython were none too pleased with me, but they still invited me to join their Bonython Against Drones Facebook Group….which I did.
I began to get a sense of the level of frustration in my community. I did a full day doorknocking in Bonython in late October and was further surprised at the level of community objection. Granted mine was a small sample, but I found many more ‘antis’ than I had anticipated. My raw data had six residents strongly in favour of the trial, eight with weak support, four who were indifferent, six who were weakly opposed and 22 who were strongly opposed. The random doorknock survey straddled all demographics.
Interestingly, I knocked on the door of a townhouse down by Stranger Pond and had to explain to the residents what the drone trial was. They’d never heard of it and weren’t aware that it was going on around them. In the townhouse next door, the resident believed that drone delivery was destroying her life and making it impossible for her to live there. I guess everyone’s personal threshold is different.
Project Wing drones sound like a cross between an intense bee swarm and a distant F1 Grand Prix Race.
Please understand that as a resident of Bonython and a supporter of business and innovation, I don’t personally have any qualms with the drone delivery trial. I hear drones flying every week and there are multiple deliveries to my street, but it doesn’t phase me one iota. But the level of community concern about this trial is such that we must re-examine it.
As such, I fully support my colleague Andrew Wall’s push for a Committee Inquiry into drone delivery systems in the ACT. We need to understand the extent of regulatory oversight and the extent of the impact on residents, native animals and domestic animals.
Sometimes technology changes quicker than laws and regulations can change and this could well be one of those instances. I look forward to hearing from all interested parties.
What are your thoughts on drone deliveries in Bonython – or Canberra? Comment below.