With the winding up of the Bonython drone delivery trial this week, another community-based lobby group will be taking on the company planning to put its fleet of tiny aircraft into the skies over Gungahlin this year.
Bonython Against Drones led the charge against the trial, which attracted national attention in the Federal Parliament and generated a Legislative Assembly petition and inquiry.
Now a Canberra-wide group, nodrone.zone, with the slogan ‘Tell ’em to buzz off’, will be focusing on Google subsidiary Wing’s plans for a trial over Gungahlin’s suburbs. The company now has a base in Mitchell, which it will fit out to house and service its fleet of drones.
CEO of Wing, James Ryan Burgess said in a statement that the company’s focus would now turn towards building a world-first ongoing drone delivery operation in Mitchell.
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“Our core focus will be on continuing to talk to the residents and businesses in Crace, Palmerston, Harrison, Franklin and Gungahlin to get their input on how we should best operate our drone delivery service in the area,” he said.
“As we wrap up our trial in Bonython, we’re grateful to the testers who helped us shape our service, and the Bonython community for their willingness to engage in a constructive discussion about this new technology and to provide feedback that has enabled us to improve our service.”
But the Bonython group has called the trial a failure and expressed relief that life has returned to normal, and warned Gungahlin residents of the noise and invasion of privacy they will now face.
Below is a video posted on their website.
A spokesperson for nodrone.zone, Jon Reynolds, said the group would concentrate on areas where people will be adversely affected by commercial drone operations and technology.
It wanted clear government responsibility and appropriate legislation and regulation to control aspects of commercial drone operations such as noise, privacy and safety issues, and impact on the environment.
He said the group would mount a general awareness campaign, promote community activity and participation, and make a submission to the Assembly inquiry.
“With Tuggeranong trial operations now concluded and commercial operations anticipated to commence shortly in the Gungahlin district, primary focus will be on the affected areas,” he said.
Mr Reynolds said the group was open to all sectors of the community who shared concerns about the current lack of clear legislation, regulation and delineation of government agency responsibility (both Federal and local), the commercial use of drone technology and how it may negatively impact the predominately residential community.
Asked whether nodrone.zone would be engaging with Wing, he said the group did not have blanket opposition to drones and would engage with any potential commercial operator.
“Commercial drone operations for specific purposes definitely have a place in Canberra,” he said.
“For example, we understand that Evoenergy is proposing to use commercial drone technology to inspect power lines. This is far more cost-effective than having teams manually inspect infrastructure from the ground. It is also cheaper and allows closer inspection than can be achieved by helicopter.
“The key difference here is that inspection would be occurring relatively infrequently, and impacted individuals can be given advance notice as compared to an ongoing commercial drone delivery service.”
Wing has already flagged that its next generation of drones will be quieter in response to the Bonython complaints but Mr Reynolds said feedback from demonstrations of the new propeller design was that while the tone or pitch of the noise may have changed there was no indication that noise levels had been significantly reduced.
Mr Reynolds said Wing’s stated ambitious aim of 600,000 drone-delivery-related transactions by 2030 would result in a significant number of drone overflights on a daily basis, far in excess of the number of general aviation flights that occur over the ACT, where there were already strict controls on permissible aircraft noise.
He also questioned Wing’s claim of environmental benefits, saying with a current ‘payload’ of about two kilograms he doubted whether there ever was a huge demand for “single burritos, packets of aspirin and individual café lattes to be delivered by road, and then even less likely during peak traffic hours”.
He said that if the ACT Government was serious about reducing vehicle emissions, it could mandate that all new commercial delivery vehicles be electric.
Mr Reynolds said the benefits of such disruptive innovation depended on one’s perspective but in this situation, consumers who opted out of the service would still have to put up with the negative impacts.
“Potentially they have commercial drones flying over their residential properties, creating excessive noise, and invading their privacy regardless of whether they are partaking in the service or not,” he said.