New opportunities for UAVs in Australian agriculture


New regulations set to take effect September 2016 will open up new opportunities for UAV use in Australia's agricultural sector.

Agriculture is a science that requires hard work and sound judgement based on information. Naturally, the more data farmers have at their disposal, the more effectively they can plan and manage their crops.

While farmers around the world are seeing the benefits of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), regulations in Australia have proven to be somewhat prohibitive in allowing agricultural professionals to take advantage of these versatile systems. Change is on the horizon however, with new regulations primed to strike down some of these barriers and open the doors for the use of drones on farms across the country.

Giving farmers a bird's-eye view


It's important for farmers to have a clear picture of everything that's happening in their fields. Of course, getting that picture is a monumental task, given that Australia is home to 385 million hectares of land dedicated to agriculture, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. With 284,000 workers in the sector, according to the Department of Employment, that leaves over one thousand hectares per worker. Needless to say, any technology that makes surveying that much land more efficient would be incredibly beneficial. That's where UAVs come in, delivering high-quality aerial photos of crops in record time.

With other sensors that can be mounted on a UAV, farmers can also get a better picture of the health of their crops. Researchers for International Water Management Institute (IWMI) tested this technology with crop fields in Sri Lanka. Salman Siddiqui, head of GIS remote sensing and data at IWMI, noted how infrared sensors can identify potential issues with crop health.

"Using near-infrared, you can identify stress in a plant 10 days before it becomes visible to the eye," said Mr. Siddiqui, as reported in The Guardian.

He noted that the advanced warning period can give farmers time to identify the cause of the stress and potentially save large areas of crops from a number of issues. Through this and other uses, UAVs stand to be an invaluable tool for Australian farmers.

Striking down the barriers to entry

A major issue for farmers looking to use UAVs has been regulations from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) that required a UAV operator's certificate (UOC) for anyone using a drone commercially. With a processing time of 80 working days and an estimated $2,300 price tag, according to CASA, it's no surprise that most agricultural professionals would be weary.
As of September 29, however, new rules are set to go into effect that will remove the hassle of obtaining a UOC. This legislation will change the terminology from UAVs to remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), as well as introducing new weight classifications for RPA:

  • Under 2 kg - very small.
  • Between 2 and 25 kg - small.
  • Between 25 and 150 kg - medium.
  • Over 150 kg - large.

Most importantly, these changes will also remove the UOC requirement for very small RPA, as well as for small RPA on private land for commercial purposes so long as the operator is not being paid for the work. This effectively means that farmers can use RPA in a number of cases without putting in the time and money for a UOC.

With these new regulations, RPA operators must still follow certain rules for flight:

  • Keep the RPA in sight and fly during daylight hours.
  • Stay under 120 metres, 30 metres from other people and 5.5 km away from controlled air space.
  • Don't fly over populated areas.
  • Don't operate more than one RPA at a time.

These new regulations will open up exciting new possibilities for farmers.

Contact Redstack for more information and pricing on a UAV solution to meet your needs.

Autodesk® AutoCAD® software
Ultimaker 3 3D Printer
Featuring seamless hardware, software and material integration the Ultimaker 3 3D printer creates complex geometries and achieves remarkable design intricacy with the most reliable dual extrusion on the market.
Autodesk Revit
Autodesk Revit software is built for Building Information Modelling (BIM), helping professionals design, build, and maintain higher-quality buildings.
Autodesk Architecture, Engineering and Construction Collection
This collection equips you to design higher quality and more sustainable buildings. Build your capability to deliver great design.
Autodesk Product Design & Manufacturing Collection
The Autodesk Product Design and Manufacturing Collection is the best way to access the most essential Autodesk software for product and factory design.
Autodesk Media and Entertainment Collection
Digital content creation tools for efficient 3D animation, compelling effects, believable 3D characters, and stunning environments for film, TV and game workflows.
Design every detail with AutoCAD software. Share your work with confidence using Trusted DWG™ technology, and connect your workflow across integrated desktop, cloud, and mobile solutions.
Autodesk Inventor
Autodesk Inventor—professional grade design and engineering tools that help you make great products.
Contact us 1300 667 263
Redstack Facebook Redstack Twitter Redstack Youtube Redstack LinkedIn Redstack Google Plus Redstack Intagram
Contact us 1300 667 263
Scroll to the top