The future of drones in Australia
Project partners: Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, University of South Australia
Drones, or Uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), have developed into high-tech sophisticated tools with a variety of potential use cases that could offer wide-ranging benefits to different industries. In Australia commercial drone use is its infancy and the potential benefits of the technology are yet to be fully realised in Australia.
The iMOVE project Validating the benefits of increased drone uptake for Australia was an overview of what’s happening with drone use right now, and how governments can support their future growth. The findings and recommendations of the project are now available in a full, final report, downloadable below.
About the project
The final report for this project investigates Australia’s emerging drone sector, summarising the current state of development and lessons learnt from other countries.
It also assesses the demographic and geographic determinants of increased drone uptake in Australia and identified key benefits from and challenges to increased drone uptake from the perspective of different communities and sub-populations.
The objectives of the project were to:
- Provide an overview of the drone sector in Australia, and a comparison with current and emerging sectors in other countries;
- Assess the demographic and geographic determinants of increased drone uptake in Australia; and
- Identify key benefits from and challenges to increased drone uptake from the perspective of different communities and sub-populations.
Overall, there is a compelling case for pursuing these objectives. The Deloitte Access Economic Report (2020) estimates the economic benefits in the period 2020 —2040 from an increase in drone use by Australian businesses and government organisations is estimated to result in a boost to the nation’s GDP of $14.5 billion, accompanied by savings of $9.3 billion. It is also estimated to create 5,500 new jobs per year.
The project’s objectives were addressed through four complementary research activities:
- a comprehensive review of the academic and grey literature, such as industry or consulting reports, on drone technologies;
- an online survey of 1,000 Australian residents drawn from different communities covering all Australian States and Territories to understand public opinion on drone technologies;
- an adapted Delphi study of 22 drone experts, including private and public sector actors, involved in the development, operation, and regulation of drone technologies; and
- a computable general equilibrium model of the national economy to simulate the potential macro-economic effects of different drone technology use cases
While this project was by no means exhaustive, it does provide a comprehensive snapshot of what is a rapidly evolving field. It is also acknowledged that much more research is needed to stay informed about the opportunities, challenges, and evolving applications in order to develop the best viable solutions and support services for a drone industry in Australia.
The present study provides a number of opportunities for future research. First and foremost, this study concentrated on certain sectors in which there is a wide range of drone applications as indicated in the prior literature. These sectors are advanced air mobility, environmental management, freight and last-mile delivery, public services, agriculture, mining and resources, construction and recreation and entertainment. The value proposition for drone adoption in many other sectors has been excluded, particularly for the maritime, health services, manufacturing, and insurance sectors, largely because of limited evidence and/or because the technology is in its infancy in these sectors.
An overview of trials currently underway is provided, including the use of drones for the inspection of bridges in NSW, last-mile delivery of medical equipment in Queensland, parcel delivery in major cities across Australia, health service transport in the Northern Territory (NT) and tracking endangered elusive species in the NT.
The point is also made that “… drones are expected to be more useful for regional areas than urban areas, by reducing isolation. The rural areas of Australia offer new opportunities to utilise drones.”
For the increased, successful uptake of drones in Australia the helping hands of governments is crucial. Assistance in the following four areas is seen as key in this task:
- Regulations will be essential to get the balance right between safety, security and innovation;
- Greater direct public sector investment, including in research and development, as well as incentives to encourage greater private sector investment in drone technology and the broader ecosystem, could expedite the rate of development and adoption of such technology and ensure secure supply chains and sovereignty over data and capabilities in Australia;
- Governments could have a role to play in educating and informing the public about the process of technology development and deployment; and
- Governments may also need to help manage the negative effects of drone technologies, which are likely to influence public opinion and impede uptake.
Above all, for drone technology to gain widespread application, it is necessary to identify clear and compelling value propositions to potential end-users, such as time and cost savings and increased safety.
That said, the future for drones in Australia is bright. While we are quite reliant on overseas manufacture of the hardware, Australia could find itself in the vanguard of these technologies:
“Australia is well placed to offer a testbed for different use cases, considering the nation’s geographic and demographic characteristics. Fostering Australia’s own supply chain and ecosystem could not only increase economic welfare but also be in Australia’s interest in terms of ensuring national sovereign capability and addressing data collection, retention and distribution for national security concerns. Increased uptake could also enhance service and access equality between residents in remote, regional and metropolitan areas of Australia.”
Download the report
Download your copy of the final report, Validating the benefits of increased drone uptake for Australia: Geographic, demographic and social insights, by clicking the button below.DOWNLOAD THE REPORT