Drones could fly permanently in ACT, despite community concerns

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Drone deliveries are set to become a fixture in the ACT, as the company trialling the technology in south Canberra looks to set up a new permanent location for the service.

Wing’s home won’t be located at the testing site in Bonython, much to the relief of residents who say noise from the drones ruined the amenity of their quiet suburb.


Wing chief executive Ryan Burgess says the drone delivery service is looking to find a permanent home in the ACT. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Wing has trialled the use of drones to deliver food and medication to homes in the Tuggeranong suburb since July.

The company leased land in Greenway, adjacent to Bonython, as a base for the drones, as well as products from businesses involved in the trial, including Guzman y Gomez and Chemist Warehouse.

With a lease due to expire in February, Wing wants to establish a permanent presence in the capital. It has also trialled the technology in Royalla and Googong.

Wing chief executive James Ryan Burgess would not provide details about where it would be based, but said it was looking at options in industrial areas rather than residential suburbs, such as Bonython.

Fairfax Media understands the drones can fly over a 10 kilometre radius, meaning they could deliver to the suburbs even if the base was in an industrial area.

Mr Burgess said the choice of location was based on feedback from surveys from across Canberra.

"One of the lessons from the trial, and from what we’ve heard in feedback from surveys from the larger Canberra population, is that having a site in a more industrial area would be preferred and we are looking at options," Mr Burgess said.

Wing has faced growing opposition to its trial in Bonython. Residents last month formed a community action group amid concerns about noise and privacy.

The group, Bonython Against Drones have letterboxed hundreds of properties in the area and contacted territory and federal politicians with their complaints.

A group of residents also spoke about the issues at Tuesday's Tuggeranong Community Council.

Spokesman Nev Sheather said residents in the suburb had been "traumatised by the noise and intrusion of the drones".

"It is not only the people, it's the wildlife; the birds have disappeared and dogs have been going beserk," Mr Sheather said.

Mr Sheather was also concerned about an apparent lack of government oversight and regulation in the trial, as well as Wing's reluctance to publicly release details about its service.

He was pleased his suburb would not be used as Wing's permanent base, but said it would only shift noise and privacy issues to another part of the capital.

Fairfax Media spotted five drones flying overhead during a one-hour period in Bonython last week.

It is understood about 150 people use the drones, however Wing would not confirm that figure or the total number of deliveries since the trial began.

Mr Burgess said Wing welcomed positive and negative feedback about the trial from Bonython residents, which would be used to refine its service.

He said the drones offered had provided a quick and environmentally friendly delivery option for people in the area.

"Over the course of the trial we’ve successfully delivered ... chemist items to elderly testers, or parents whose children are sick and sunscreen when needed at a moment’s notice, or hot meals to shift workers and others on tight schedules," he said.

Bonython resident Samantha Saint said she used Wing at least once a week because of its convenience.

"I have two children under the age of four, so to be able to have the flexibility of getting food or medication delivered without having to get into the car and driving to the shops - it's amazing," Ms Saint said.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority granted approval for the trial and has been monitoring Wing's flights during the period.

An authority spokesman said it had received no complaints about safety issues during the trial. Wing would need to obtain extra approvals should it wish to establish a permanent delivery service.

"We carefully assess all the safety issues, look at all the relevant data and ensure there are no unacceptable risks to people, property or other aircraft," the spokesman said.

"It is an intensive process that Wing has been through at each stage of the trials in and around the ACT."

An ACT government spokesman said it was not helping Wing find a permanent site, but had helped it secure the land for the trial.

The spokesman said the government was monitoring the trial, but would leave Wing to decide whether it wanted to expand its operations.

from The Canberra Times
 
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