Airservices Australia is set to build a drone flight management system with the Queensland University of Technology to automate approval processes and increase safety.
The streamlined system is expected to replace current manual processes to allow the rapid scale up of services in times of high demand, such as in emergencies when communities need to be reached quickly.
Robotics and autonomous systems researcher at QUT, Dr Aaron McFadyen, was awarded an Advance Queensland industry research fellowship for the project, which will be “in full swing” from November.
He said emergencies such as pandemics or natural disasters can cut people off from essential goods and services, including lifesaving medications which could be rapidly deployed with drones.
“Drones can carry these critical supplies, reach more people, up to 50 percent faster and with less human interaction,” he said in a statement.
“During a pandemic, disaster or non-pandemic environments, drone services could be scaled up to reach over 80 percent of our population.”
Drones have already proven useful at reaching isolated areas in developing nations, with medical delivery service Zipline performing over 57,000 commercial deliveries by drone in Rwanda and Ghana.
Closer to home, research is already underway to use remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to autonomously locate survivors after natural disasters.
Airservices executive general manager of customer service enhancement Michelle Bennetts said the organisation is working to provide innovative and robust technological solutions to meet the developing needs of industry and the broader community.
“We have already seen astonishing growth and innovation in drones across so many industry sectors such as mining, emergency services and farming, and no doubt there will be many more applications to come," Bennetts said.
“To facilitate RPAS use and innovation for the benefit of Australia, we must ensure they are safely, securely and efficiently integrated into our national airspace system.”
The new system will first be introduced around the nation’s major airports, where aerial traffic is busiest.