Article submitted by Engineers Australia Industry Engagement Partner, Cardno.
In the last decade, the number of commercial applications for Remotely-Piloted Aircraft (RPA), or drones has increased exponentially.
From remote asset monitoring, extractives exploration, logistics and transport to emergency management, the ability to capture and transmit aerial data in real-time, at a fraction of the former cost, is transforming business.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has recently upgraded its regulations, allowing unlicensed pilots to fly an RPA commercially if it is 2kg or under. This has increased the use and demand, but also heightened the safety concerns.
Even though operators need to abide by CASA’s Standard Operating Conditions, there are still concerns around untrained pilots using drones in business operations, including respecting privacy and avoiding hazards to other aircraft, people or property.
Cardno’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Manager in the Wollongong office, Amy Steiger said the organisation has five licensed drone pilots in Australia.
“All have had the full training and a great deal of experience in operating an RPA safely”, Ms Steiger said.
Cardno specialists utilise RPAs for multi-purpose aerial analysis across a diverse range of applications from topographic surveying to slope stability assessment, coastal erosion monitoring to archaeological mapping.
“RPAs are now a crucial business tool for us, not only for surveying and GIS work, but they also provide quick and accurate photogrammetric data to planners, scientists and engineers on major infrastructure and development projects,” Ms Steiger said.
Over the past few years, Ms Steiger has been instrumental in introducing the significant benefits of RPAs to the Australian wine industry. Cardno had the opportunity to partner with the New South Wales state government to teach leaders in the wine industry about the benefits of utilising drones for data capture across their vineyards.
Obtaining aerial data with a multi-spectral or a near infrared sensor provides insight into grape crop health well beyond what the eye, and even years of grape growing experience, can detect.
Using multispectral and thermal sensors on the remotely-piloted aircraft allows grape growers and wine producers to quickly and cost effectively check the health, and therefore more accurately predict potential yields, of their vines.
“Using cost-effective remote sensing with RPAs means grape crop information, such as vine development, growth rates as well as water or heat stress analysis, can be captured and compared year-on-year and help determine optimum soil locations, harvesting and planting times as well as vine spacing,” said Ms Steiger.
Author: Enterprise Technical Services team, Cardno.
Image: Cardno's GIS Manager in Wollongong, Amy Steiger flying a remotely-piloted aircraft.