Standing up for Canberra

Constituent Statement: Drones

In June this year, the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority, authorised the operation of Project Wing’s drone delivery trial in Bonython, a suburb in my electorate, with a number of exemptions from existing regulations.

These exemptions allow the service to operate within five metres of people, over populous areas, and outside of CASA's documented practices and procedures. They allow Project Wing to deliver burritos and coffee and croissants.

CASA required Project Wing to document and report against a number of technical and safety related matters at the end of each month.

It would be nice to actually see those reports, in the interests of transparency.

The exemptions instrument provided by CASA authorises the operation of the trial in Bonython to May next year, but Project Wing can apply to CASA for a renewal of the exemption prior to this date.

When I raised the concerns my community has had about the trial with CASA, the federal agency that provided the authority for the exemptions from the regulations, the Chief Executive advised, CASA only deals with the aviation aspects of the wing operation, with privacy, security and noise issues being outside of CASA's remit.

So, CASA cannot consider issues of privacy and noise, which are the top two concerns raised by my community, nor do they want to.

At no stage has community feedback or impact been considered in the regulatory arrangements around the trial.

I wrote to the Privacy Commissioner after I received that letter from CASA, asking the Commissioner whether she was consulted about the privacy aspects of this trial, and I'm still awaiting a response.

I asked CASA whether it would undertake an independent review of the delivery trial, in terms of the arrangements. The CEO's response was to refer to CASA's development of a road map to integrate drone systems into Australia's aviation system.

In other words, there was no response from CASA's CEO. That road map was going to be developed without considering the impact on the community.

Whole of government consideration should be given in the lead up to trials like Project Wing, which are planned to roll out right across Australia, especially where the approving regulatory authority does not have sufficient delegation to consider the full scope of regulations and issues.

A fortnight ago we heard that Project Wing had commissioned an economic impact study by Alphabet on the drone trial, declaring it would boost business by $40 million in Canberra.

So Project Wing can find the cash to stump up for an economic impact study but can't find the cash to stump up for a community impact study or an environmental impact study or an independent review of the drone trial.

And where is the study?

I've gone to the Project Wing website and I can't find it there.

I've gone to the Alphabet website and I can't find it there.

Why haven't Project Wing or Alphabet publicly released the study?

What have they got to hide?