On 13–14 February, the biggest event in the NZ drone/UAV calendar was held at AUT in Auckland. The 2017 NZ UAV Industry Conference was a sell-out, with a wide range of key industry players attending and showing off their products and services at the trade exhibition.
The Airways/Airshare team heard presentations from the CAA on future rule-making, which is scheduled to start in the second half of 2017. The CAA will also be conducting a post-implementation review to assess the success of the current interim rules.
Pauline Lamb, Airways COO, delivered a presentation on Airways’ vision for the future of safe UAV operations and introduced Airways’ UAV Traffic Management (UTM) project. The Airways UTM investigation project is tasked with gathering stakeholder UTM requirements and information from UTM providers which we be evaluated against the requirements. We then learnt about an upcoming humanitarian project in Vanuatu using drones to deliver essential medical supplies to remote locations.
Next up were the Americans – with an overview of the NASA UTM project progress, and a presentation from Facebook on their Aquila solar planes which will provide internet access to some of the most remote and under-serviced places on earth.
The day concluded very positively with the Hon Simon Bridges, Minister of Transport, pledging his support for the UAV industry and commitment to support its growth.
The second day was split into workshops focusing on a wide range of UAV applications and challenges, from agricultural and emergency services, to up-to-the minute innovation from the likes of Flirtey Ltd (drone delivery) and Martin Jetpack.
I was particularly impressed with Martin Jetpack’s progress over the past two years. Check out this video to see their Concept of Operations for yourself.
Mike Haines, Airways Head of Policy, presented an update on Airways ATC operations with regard to UAV processes and we also heard from Massey’s School of Aviation, which is delivering four UAV courses per month and has trained 120 UAV pilots to date.
The afternoon sessions focused on surveying applications and experiences and property owner/legal issues. Auckland Council gave a comprehensive talk which provided an insight into their policy-making processes and decisions. Many other local councils adopted Auckland’s drone policy and guidelines following its publication.
A real highlight of the conference for me was having the opportunity to talk to so many industry participants and put many faces to the many names that I have come across in the past few years. I came away with a great sense of positivity about the bright future of the industry and towards Airways efforts in helping to support growth – as well as a stack of business cards!