Commercial sectors have been benefiting from the use of drones in an increasing variety of ways, offering high value gains in efficiencies, productivity, safety and marketing.
Outside of the military, the construction, infrastructure and agriculture sectors particularly are making widespread use of drones, including across rural and regional Queensland.
Uses are numerous and include:
- Asset inspections including of rural infrastructure, especially where equipment or crew mobilisation costs might otherwise be high.
- Safety inspections.
- Mapping and survey work.
- Recording project progress.
- Insurance assessments.
- Goods deliveries.
- Disaster management.
- Search and rescue.
- Environmental impact assessments.
- Crop and livestock assessments, monitoring and crop spraying.
Drone use will become part of 'business as usual' for many companies yet to even consider their use. That might be where operations could be performed quicker, cheaper or more safely using a drone, or where it would allow easy recording of information not currently captured.
Drone use is big business. Nearly two years ago the Queensland government released its Drones Strategy. In line with this strategy, this year will see the development of the $14.5m commercial drone flight testing facility at Cloncurry Airport.
As is often the case with opportunities, the increase in drone use also gives rise to risks that must be managed. Operators of drones will have to comply with the increasing pool of government rules and regulations. Some may conduct drone operations 'in-house' thereby retaining those operator obligations.
Businesses or individuals might instead engage others for drone services. Those purchasing drone services will need to ensure any risks to them are managed in the relevant contract.
This may concern:
- Ensuring the drone operator complies with all laws.
- The conditions under which drones can be used on site.
- Intellectual property ownership.
- Indemnities covering any damage caused.
- Insurances coverage.
- Safety issues.
- Privacy and consultation.
- Maintenance of a flight log.
So what's on the horizon? We know of the mandatory drone registration and accreditation requirements due to be phased in from mid-2020, but excitement lies in the potential uses of drones.
Commercial drone use offers amazing benefits in a variety of ways, many yet to be realised. But it is essential that the risks involved are appropriately managed.
- By Holding Redlich partner Kylie Wilson and special counsel Andrew Statham