A veteran aviation expert claims to have exposed another gap in the regulation of household delivery drones - one which calls into question the legality of Wing's entire Canberra operation.
Bonython resident Ian McIntyre, an aviation consultant and former regulator at the old Civil Aviation Authority, said the US-based tech company never obtained a key noise approval before it launched its controversial trials across the Canberra region.
The federal department of regional development and cities said the type and weight of Wing's drones meant it was exempt from the process, but was reviewing the apparent loophole as part of an investigation into noise regulations for delivery noise.
The review comes after an ACT Assembly inquiry into delivery drones revealed uncertainty as to which government agency was responsible for policing drone noise. Representatives from the ACT government, Air Services Australia and Civil Aviation Safety Authority each told the inquiry that their powers did not extend to the regulation of noise.
Mr McIntyre, who is a member of the residents' group which campaigned against Wing's Bonython trial, said the company's operation was "illegal" because it had not gone through a noise approval process, as required under the Australian Air Navigation (Aircraft Noise) Regulations 2018.
The regulations list the types of aircraft which are exempt from the process. Drones are not listed as exempt.
Operators are required to prove their aircraft would comply with noise standards before they are granted a so-called noise certificate.
Because no federal noise regulations exist for drones, Mr McIntyre said operators would need special permission from the department.
In Wing's case, that was not granted.
Mr McIntyre said Wing's trials across the Canberra region were therefore illegal. The company's plans to establish a permanent base in Mitchell, and start flights across Gungahlin should be put on hold, he said.
They need new regulations for drones, but it will take a lot of time to get that right.Ian McIntyre
"They need new regulations for drones, but it will take a lot of time to get it right," Mr McIntyre said. "Until those new set of regulations come out, then they [drone operators] need to abide by the existing regulations, because its law."
The Canberra Times put questions to the department regarding Mr McIntyre's claims, including whether Wing required a noise approval.
A department spokesman said the type and weight of Wing's drones meant it was exempt from the process. Mr McIntyre rebutted that statement, saying the aircraft noise regulations make no reference to size and weight as cause for an exemption.
In response to further questions from The Canberra Times, the spokesman said: "The department has received representations from the community which it is considering as part of reviewing the current and future application of its noise regulations to RPAS [drone] operations."
A Wing spokeswoman said the company obtained all the necessary approvals to operate in Bonython and would obtain all required approvals to operate in Canberra's north.