Aviation

Major Aussie airports to trial drone-monitoring technology

Huntley Mitchell

Huntley Mitchell

Drone-monitoring technology could soon become commonplace at Australian airports, following the recent chaos caused by flying robots in the UK.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has contracted Counter Drone Solutions to carry out a drone monitoring trail at Australia’s mainland capital city airports over the next six months.

CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said the trial will gather data on drone activities, where the drones are operating, whether or not they are infringing the airports’ no-go zone of 5.5 kilometres, and where the drones are being flown from.

“In most cases, we will get the model and type of drone,” he told Travel Weekly. “We will also be having this done at a known drone hotspot, Sydney Harbour.”

Gibson said the results of the trial will inform the development of new drone safety strategies.

“We can also use the same drone monitoring to carry out enforcement of the rules in the future,” he said.

“This is because we can see if the drones are flying in restricted airspace and locate the person flying the drone. Penalties for breaking the drone rules are fines up to $10,500; or, if the matter goes to court, up to five years’ jail for putting the safety of people at risk.”

The trail comes after an illegal drone ‘raid’ forced Gatwick Airport to shut down just before Christmas, and a drone sighting caused Heathrow Airport to ground flights earlier this month.

According to data from Airservices Australia, a total of 468 sightings were recorded by pilots across the country over the last two-and-a-half years, with the majority of these occurring at airports.

Sydney Airport recorded nearly half of all drone sightings in Australia during the 20-month period with 222.

Gibson said the trial is part of a drone safety campaign for 2019, with the introduction of a national drone registration scheme to follow later this year.


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