Analysis commissioned by Airservices Australia predicts the annual number of drone flights in Australian skies will surge from 1.5 million a year in 2023 to 60.4 million a year by 2043.
The report, Sizing the future drone and advanced air mobility market in Australia, was produced for Airservices to inform the ongoing discussion on how Australia can best prepare for and benefit from the increasing availability of drone technology.
The exponential growth in drone traffic is expected to be driven by increasing demand from the transport and logistics sector, which is forecast to make up 77 per cent of the increase in drone traffic. The report also predicts that by 2043 Australian farmers will be making 500,000 drone flights annually to monitor crops, while drones will make 1.5 million food deliveries to Australian households.
Emergency services are also forecast to make increasing use of drone technology. More than 300,000 flights will be made annually to support frontline police and 80,000 flights in support of surf lifesavers, while 100,000 patients will be transported to hospital by a specialised new air ambulances, like the hydrogen-powered aircraft ‘Vertiia’ manufactured by Australian aerospace company AMSL Aero.
Drones are already employed widely in Australian agriculture and mining operations, where they are used for operational monitoring, surveying and mapping. Several new market entrants are also delivering food and goods by drone, with more than 120,000 trips per year taking place already.
Electric air taxis are expected to make nearly 1 million flights in 2043, with providers targeting Australian launches to coincide with the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brisbane.
Responsible for the safe and efficient use of Australian airspace, Airservices commissioned the scoping report to inform its future planning for uncrewed aircraft traffic management—a growing part of the aviation industry.
The report notes there is broad agreement among industry stakeholders that achieving and managing the increase in drone traffic will require an appropriate and responsive regulatory framework, and a willingness to work collaboratively to enable the safe and sustainable growth of uncrewed aviation.
“Airservices is building the technology foundations to support increasing drone and air taxi use in Australia, and key to that is collaboration between all stakeholders,” said Jason Harfield, Airservices Australia Chief Executive Officer.
“Airservices’ no.1 priority is safety, and we look forward to working with industry, government and community to chart a course for next-generation technology in Australian skies.”
Luke Gumley, Airservices’ Head of Transformation Uncrewed Services, said: “Airservices is partnering with industry to deliver the backbone to a world-leading air traffic management system for drones which will support the safe and efficient integration of all aircraft including drones and air taxis into Australia’s increasingly busy airspace.
“The Flight Information Management System is being built using innovative digital and automated technologies, cyber resilience, and privacy as core foundations.
“To ensure open and transparent industry engagement, Airservices has drawn together key industry stakeholders to form the Uncrewed Services Advisory Network to enable us to better connect directly with drone and air taxi operators, and the wider aviation industry.”
Airservices is an integral part of the whole-of-government approach to the safe management of drones and air taxis, with emerging aviation technologies expected to be central to the Aviation White Paper scheduled for release later this year.
Airservices Australia is Federal Government-owned organisation responsible for the safety of 11 per cent of the world’s airspace and the provision of aviation rescue fire fighting services at Australia’s busiest airports. We work closely with our customers and industry to support the long-term growth of the aviation industry and are investing in technologies to position Australia at the forefront of innovation in the global aviation industry.