During the recent launch of the New Zealand Government’s plan for drones, Transport Minister Phil Twyford shared that drones are estimated to be worth up to NZ$ 7.9 billion to the economy.
According to a recent press release, the Government’s vision for how drones can be better integrated into the current transport system in order to develop a thriving, innovative and safe sector is set out in a paper they have just released.
Called, “Taking Flight: an aviation system for the automated age”, the document aims to provide the sector with a clear understanding of the Government’s role, and its strategic direction and priority areas, to achieve the safe integration of drones into the aviation system and broader transport system.
Aside from identifying the benefits that drones can deliver, the document also sets out the challenges that need to be managed to unlock the benefits of drones and keep New Zealanders safe.
Drones are aircraft of all sizes that are operated without a pilot on board. They can either be remotely piloted or they can fly autonomously.
As they are considered aircrafts, they must comply with existing aviation rules.
Economic benefits from drones to take off
According to the Transport Minister, drones will deliver economic benefits by doing tasks that are time intensive, expensive and risky.
These tasks include monitoring crops, inspecting power lines, and helping with emergency operations.
Numerous reports agree that drones will grow into a multi-billion dollar market globally in the next five to ten years.
New Zealand has an opportunity to be at the forefront of drone technology with sectors like forestry, agriculture, and conservation already harnessing their abilities.
The country’s challenging topography lends itself to drone use. Drones will allow more efficient and safe management of stock, pasture and crops, and at a lower cost.
Being at the forefront of drone technology can be achieved by ensuring that the approach to drone operations harnesses the many opportunities they bring while addressing the challenges.
Moreover, being at the forefront means maintaining a regulatory and business environment which actively supports the beneficial and safe development and use of drones to benefit New Zealand.
Safety and privacy
There are already over 77,000 drones in use in New Zealand and the Government knows that the public have concerns about privacy and safety.
Safety is the top transport priority and there are a number of initiatives already underway, including looking at potential updates to the rules for using drones.
The Ministry of Transport is currently consulting on potential new powers for law enforcement agencies to seize or detain drones that are breaking the rules.
The Government is tackling the long-term issues and had acknowledged that getting the regulations right will take some time.
However, it is significant that time is taken to get it right.