Canberra - Australia

Timeline: Planned – to be launched within two to five years; funds have been committed and key industry partners identified

Canberra – Sydney (286 km)

Country introduction

The Government of the Australian Capital Territory has published its National Emerging Aviation Technologies Policy covering drone and eVTOL industries.

Some key passages from the document include:

The ACT Government is optimistic about the potential benefits of drones and drone delivery services; from empowering local businesses to reach more customers, to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and making life easier for Canberrans living with mobility challenges. We are also interested in further exploring the wide range of situations and possible applications for drone technology, including in the context of Emergency Services.

The ACT Government supports the proposed policy approach that the Australian Government should lead the development of a coordinated and informed approach to infrastructure planning, investment, requirements and approvals. The two areas that the Australian Government might focus on are

  • site selection for “launch” sites for commercial operators, and
  • site and operational requirements, particularly in relation to technical and assessments considerations once a site has been identified.

Guidance for both operators and land use regulators on criteria for site selection will be invaluable in the future consideration of drone sites as well as for planning for such sites in future land releases. This might include guidance on considerations such as appropriate location of such sites, sizes, connectivity to ground-based transport, proximity considerations (e.g. sensitive receptors, utility services and powerlines, vulnerable environments, privacy, potential flightpaths and approach zones, and proximity to other secure facilities), appropriate configuration of sites and compatible and incompatible land uses.

Site selection also raises a fundamental threshold question of when a site and its associated operations are insignificant enough to be considered as a type of “local aviation depot” (albeit closely integrated with the urban environment), and when it becomes a proposal to consider to be of greater land use significance with more significant potential impacts, i.e. 4 Paragraph 3.26 Inquiry into Drone Delivery Systems in the ACT,  when does it become a de facto airport or heliport for UAVs or eVTOL operations?

Some clarification or guidance at a Commonwealth level about this would be gratefully received. On site and operational requirements currently there is very little, if any, guidance for regulators from the Commonwealth in their consideration of a potential launch/operational site for eVTOL operations. This could potentially cover a wide range of matters, such as sizes of launch pads, onsite storage facilities and maintenance requirements, securing the site (including fencing, lighting and surveillance requirements), utility services requirements, vegetation clearance requirements, site rehabilitation (in the case of temporary use), likely trip generation rates (and corresponding likely ‘flight generation rates’) for different operators, signage, access and parking requirements.

Meanwhile, press reports suggest all-electric flights are planned from Sydney to Canberra three times a day and over the Great Barrier Reef by 2026, following the deal between Sydney Seaplanes, Nautilus and Eve Air Mobility to fly 60 eVTOLs in Australian airspace by 2026. Tourism flight operator Nautilus – with bases in Cairns, Port Douglas, Townsville, Horn Island and Darwin - plans to fly 10 Eve’s eVTOLs on scenic flights over the Great Barrier Reef and other tourist attractions.


All active programmes in Australia

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