Canberra Airport not told about Project Wing drone delivery testing nearby at Googong
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Canberra Airport not told about Project Wing drone delivery testing nearby at Googong

Canberra Airport has expressed safety concerns over the use of drones to deliver goods in Googong, which falls under a flight path.

A spokeswoman for the airport said they were not consulted prior to the drone trials, despite the test area falling less than two kilometres from the airport's controlled airspace.

Kerrie and Russell Whitford with their horses at home at Fernleigh Park. The couple are unhappy with drone delivery testing by Project Wing.

Kerrie and Russell Whitford with their horses at home at Fernleigh Park. The couple are unhappy with drone delivery testing by Project Wing.Credit:Elliot Williams

Nearby residents of the drone delivery testing site have also expressed concerns, saying they don't want the trials to continue due to noise disturbance and privacy concerns.

It was announced last week that a US-based sister company of Google had moved the primary testing of their drone delivery system to Fernleigh Park at Googong, with the hope of eventually expanding to Canberra.

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The drone delivery test site falls just outside controlled airspace surrounding the Canberra Airport.

The drone delivery test site falls just outside controlled airspace surrounding the Canberra Airport.Credit:Elliot Williams

This week, the Canberra Airport raised a number of safety concerns.

"Canberra Airport and air traffic control management considers that the proposed operation in this location should not go ahead for safety reasons," a Canberra Airport spokeswoman said.

"The proposed operation is under the flight path for runway 35, will be flown from terrain much higher than the airport and is within the Canberra Airport obstacle limitation surface."

However, after a meeting on Friday with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Air Traffic Control the spokeswoman said the airport was "reasonable satisfied" with the trial conditions.

"Based on the exact location of the trial and the trial conditions set by CASA, Canberra Airport is reasonably satisfied for the trial to proceed at this location," a statement said.

The spokeswoman did not elaborate on the discussions.

Project Wing have partnered with Unmanned Systems Australia, a Brisbane based company, and are using their remote operator certificate to conduct the testing. It allows the company to fly drones within 15 metres of people that have given consent to be included in the test.

The project has full CASA approval and it was confirmed that CASA staff were in attendance at the test site on Thursday.

Despite this, a number of residents say they are unhappy with the lack of initial consultation by Project Wing.

Kerrie and Russell Whitford live on a property neighbouring the test area. They said one of their horses suffered a cut leg when a drone package was delivered to a neighbour.

"The horses just all bolted over and one hit the fence and his leg went through it," Mrs Whitford said.

"Because it's a high pitched noise and they're flying over their heads the horses get scared. To them that's something flying at them."

Mrs Whitford believed Project Wing only consulted the community after she posted her disapproval to social media.

Project Wing hosted a community barbecue to discuss the tests with residents. Mr Whitford said this came after testing had already begun and participants had signed non-disclosure agreements.

"We're getting all this conflicting information about who does and doesn't know about it," he said

"There's people in the community that don't want it but they're too scared to put their head above the parapet."

A Project Wing spokesperson said the company remained open to community concerns and that the non-disclosure agreements were to mitigate potential disappointment if testing was unable to go ahead in the region.

Elliot Williams is a reporter for The Canberra Times