The New Zealand Government has released a report that sets out its vision for drone technology, which aims to provide clarity to the sector and discusses how the technology can be better integrated into the current transport system.
The unmanned aircraft (UA) sector is expected to grow into a multi-trillion dollar market globally in the next five to ten years.
The report notes that NZ is poised to be a world leader in UA due to its good reputation as a safety regulator, its ‘open for business’ mentality, and its risk-based UA regulatory regime.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford said UA would deliver economic benefits by doing tasks that are time intensive, expensive, and risky – such as monitoring crops, inspecting power lines and helping with emergency operations.
In fact, a number of NZ industries stand to benefit from greater use of UA. For example, there is significant scope for UA in agricultural operations.
“New Zealand’s challenging topography lends itself to UA use. UA will allow more efficient and safe management of stock, pasture and crops, and at a lower cost,” the report says.
“UA is already being used as an inspection and surveying tool in a wide range of sectors in New Zealand. UA are fast, efficient and capable of capturing large amounts of detailed information remotely. This means that tasks, such as routine maintenance, can be better targeted, further reducing costs.”
“Taking advantage of these transformative activities will place New Zealand in a good position to realise the economic benefits such technologies have the ability to deliver, allowing our aviation sector to continue to grow.”
Twyford said there is over 77,000 drones in use in NZ, and that the Government was aware that the public have concerns about privacy and safety.
“Safety is our 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.”
“Our Government is tackling the long-term issues and we acknowledge getting the regulations right will take some time, but it’s important we take the time to get it right.”
How are organisations using drones to improve operational safety?
Commercial drones and drone data are making a significant impact on efficiency and effectiveness across a wide range of industries.
Drones can carry out inspections on large work sites much faster than traditional inspection methods. In fact, one study found that using a drone to monitor safety hazards was more accurate, and could make up to 100 times more observations than a worker on the ground.
Using drones instead of workers is also fundamentally safer in a range of situations. In many cases, a drone can completely avoid the need for people to work from heights, in confined spaces, or within proximity to dangerous machinery, contamination and other hazards on site.
Surveys and Mapping
Drones have also allowed high-quality 3D mapping data to become much more accessible. This enables better management, faster and more informed decision making, and provides an accurate high-resolution archival record of every inch of your site.
Better Safety Data
The data being gathered initially for business-driven efficiency improvements is now being recognised as valuable to safety and compliance teams, who can now conduct Virtual Site Visits to assess various issues, take measurements and write their reports all without leaving the office.
Where appropriate, the use of virtual rather than physical site visits also greatly reduces the highest statistical risks to many organisations: vehicle accidents and on-site injury from slips, trips, bites and falls.