The association of Australian Certified UAV Operators (ACUO) is calling for the establishment of a Federal multiagency working party to look at how Australia can aid South Pacific nations develop appropriate regulatory regimes allowing safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in their skies.
The call emerges directly out of emerging Australian Federal Government plans to provide South Pacific nations with Australian designed and manufactured UAS as an aid to maritime security arrangements across the region. The Australian government plan is being jointly developed by Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
President of ACUO, Joe Urli, says that “ACUO strongly supports this proposed regional aid initiative but is concerned that without appropriate enhancements to the air safety management regimes of recipient states, the program may be jeopardised by creation of undue risk.
“Australia needs to match its proposed technical enhancements to regional maritime capabilities with a corresponding regional air safety initiative focussed specifically on UAS.”
The working group envisaged by ACUO would comprise representatives of Defence, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the Federal Department of Transport, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“CASA already provides some general assistance to South Pacific island states with respect to their civil aviation safety obligations, but facilitation of policy and regulatory aid directly related to UAS is beyond its existing resources. The South Pacific UAS program is exciting in its scope and potential, but could easily fail unless air safety challenges are examined in detail” says Urli.
A small number of commercial UAS are already in operation in the South Pacific region but Fiji is the only state to have a basic regulatory framework for this rapidly emerging technology at the current time.
ACUO has put forward its working group proposal as part of a submission to the current Australian Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into the current and prospective use of unmanned systems by the Australian Defence Force.
The submission also proposes linking the South Pacific UAS program to the development of a comprehensive national industrial strategy for the unmanned aircraft systems sector.
The full submission, which contains extended background data on the South Pacific UAS program concept, is available at the inquiry website here