​Queensland Police floats use of drones to fight crime: Report

Labor MP Scott Stewart reportedly wants to see police in Queensland's north use drones to fight crime.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Townsville MP Scott Stewart reportedly wants the Queensland Police Force to look into the use of drone technology in an effort to curb what has been called a crime crisis in the state's north.

According to local media, the MP believes drones are considerably cheaper than helicopters and can be launched within seconds -- travelling in excess of 100 kilometres per hour, with a range of around 7 kilometres -- from a police vehicle.

"What I've been trying to do is look at as many different solutions as possible, and cutting-edge drone technology is so much cheaper than a police helicopter," Stewart is quoted as saying. "We need to use the technology now and in the future to fight crime, not costly and old technology like helicopters."

Stewart has reportedly put forward his proposal to newly appointed Police Minister Mark Ryan, who is expected to raise the left-field idea with senior police on Thursday.

"I'm asking the police minister to look at this quite seriously, not just to say it's a nice idea and disregard it, but to do some serious consideration and research into the viability," Stewart reportedly said.

Earlier this month, the state government announced it had amended legislation that now allows the state's farmers to use drones to spray their crops.

Acting Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said the changes to the Act, and the regulations that underpin it, give Queensland farmers access to the most "innovative aerial spraying technology" available.

"I believe it is important to harness new and emerging technologies where possible and make them available to our producers, to provide new and improved ways to operate," he said.

The legislation also requires that unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spraying operations are only performed by pilots who are authorised by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and hold qualifications that demonstrate a suitable level of chemical application competency, Byrne explained.

The Queensland government announced a AU$1 million investment in remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) technology in July, expected to benefit the LNG, agriculture, mining, energy, telecommunications, search and rescue, and environmental management industries.

In addition to the cash injection, the state government partnered with aerospace giant The Boeing Company, in conjunction with Boeing subsidiary Insitu Pacific, Shell's QGC project, and Telstra, to further the drone research.

"The project aims to capitalise on the capabilities inherent in drones to carry out remote-monitoring and inspection of key infrastructure and data analysis to allow for better decision-making," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said at the time.

The investment from the Queensland government was paid for out of the state's AU$405 million Advance Queensland kitty, which was handed an additional AU$225.2 million in the 2016-17 Budget.

As of September this year, commercial operators of "very small remotely piloted aircraft" were no longer required to obtain a number of regulatory approvals to fly their unmanned vehicles under new regulations approved by the Australian government in April.

Under the changes, the government also gave the directive to drop the terms "drone" and "UAV" and replace them with remotely piloted aircraft to align itself with International Civil Aviation Organization terminology.

The changes apply to RPA used in commercial operations weighing less than 2 kilograms maximum take-off weight, and under the new rules, drone operators need to notify CASA that they intend to fly their aircraft and adhere to a set of standard operating conditions, which include flying only during the day within a visual line of sight, below 120 metres; keeping more than 30 metres away from other people; flying more than 5.5 kilometres from controlled aerodromes; and not operating near emergency situations.

Pizza giant Domino's successfully completed the delivery of a pizza to a customer in New Zealand last week, using a drone as its mode of transport.

The UAV, DRU Drone by Flirtey, was autonomously controlled using GPS navigation, delivered to the yard of a residence in Whangaparaoa, 25km north of Auckland.

The successful delivery comes three months after the companies announced their partnership and their intention to deliver pizza by drone.

With AAP

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