The world's leading drone manufacturer has announced a 10-point plan for a safer sky, admitting it will not be an easy process but warning that failure to focus on safety would be worse.
During a visit to Canberra for a conference this week, DJI's corporate communication director for North America, Adam Lisberg, unveiled the company's safety commitments and its suggestions for authorities around the world.
Drones are commonly used recreationally in Canberra, and they are also increasingly used by businesses for a range of purposes including to deliver coffees and household goods, and for surveying work.
But Mr Lisberg compared drones' current advancement to the capability of the earliest aeroplanes, invented by the Wright brothers, suggesting today's drones barely scratched the surface of what was possible.
"No matter how many exciting things you hear drones are doing now, we're still in the Wright brothers days, in terms of what drones can do," Mr Lisberg told the Sunday Canberra Times.
"It's exciting to be at a point where people are saying, 'Wouldn't it be great if there was a system where drones and traditional aircraft could communicate automatically with each other?' 'Wouldn't it be great if there was a system where you could just push a button and a drone takes off, surveys your farm fields, sprays pesticide only where necessary, lands itself, recharges itself and you never have to go out there?'
"There are a lot of great ideas that require big technological advances and regulatory approvals to get there, but there are a lot of motivated people trying to enable us to make that happen."
DJI has already developed technologies including AirSense receivers, which transmit information about other air traffic to the drone pilot. The company will install the receivers in all new drones starting next year as part of its "elevating safety" plan.
Other elements of the 10-point safety plan include urging all drone manufacturers to install geofencing technology, which creates a virtual perimeter to stop drones flying in unsafe areas, and remote identification systems, which could be linked in Australia to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's planned register of drone pilots to identify wrongdoers.
"It's gonna cost money, it's gonna draw more power on the battery, it's gonna add weight; they're all the drawbacks to doing that," Mr Lisberg said.
"But the benefits are just clear and obvious based on what we've seen so far."
The plan also includes recommendations for governments around the world, including that they should require drone pilots to pass a knowledge test before flying and step up their enforcement of the law against illegal operators.
"Some of the early rules that regulators put together about drones, because there was no lived experience with them, were based on the worst fears you could come up with," Mr Lisberg said.
"Imagine a bunch of eight-year-old boys sitting around with toys and Lego sets and saying, 'Let's imagine a plane hitting a truck and hitting a train.' It was that level of understanding."
Mr Lisberg said near-misses involving drones tended to dominate their coverage in the media, but many of these had been debunked and the benefits to society outweighed the risks.
He said 15 years ago, there was uproar about the privacy implications surrounding cameras being built into mobile phones, and while some people misused this technology, most adapted well.
"The more people get used to seeing drones and the benefits of drones, they're going to realise the world's not ending," Mr Lisberg said.
"Not only is the world not ending, but they're seeing the benefits drones can bring. Your friend who is a roofing contractor might tell you that now, he doesn't have to climb up a ladder and risk his life every time he wants to estimate a job.
"There are legitimate concerns but there are systems to mitigate those concerns, and the benefits are real."
Mr Lisberg said Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority had been one of the most forward-thinking and sensible drone regulators in the world.
Adam Welsh, DJI's head of public policy for the Asia-Pacific region, agreed and said this was one of the major reasons Australia - and Canberra - were leaders in drone innovation and adoption.
Mr Welsh said Australia was "punching well above its weight" in this area and government agencies, which he could not identify, were testing new DJI drones in Canberra.
"Once the public understands that these [DJI safety] technologies are gaining traction in the industry, we hope they'll feel more comfortable in the accountability level of operators," he said.