WAGGA is on the cusp of a technological revolution.
Silvertone Electronics is working to bring a high-tech industry to Wagga.
Their Flamingo unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is just the start of what could be a growth industry and a platform to make a tangible difference.
However, the Flamingo isn’t for showing off to your mates or for grabbing photos of the top of your roof, it’s far more complex than other drones found on the shelves of hobby and toy shops.
Its wings span four metres and unlike most remote control drones, the Flamingo is capable of flying itself up to 100 kilometres an hour.
The Flamingo is capable of climbing to 600 metres (2000 feet) and then dropping down to 30 metres (100 feet), a five litre fuel tank means it can loiter in the air for up to eight hours.
Silvertone Electronics director Ken Taylor said the auto-pilot program had been designed in Wagga – it can maintain a flight plan and can react to the prevailing weather conditions.
It’s not just a technical exercise, Mr Taylor said interest had been received from around the globe for the UAV.
With the right payload Mr Taylor said it could aid search and rescue, provide communications in the event of natural disasters, monitor weather conditions.
It can be fitted with infra-red cameras, radio equipment, weather sensors and can also stream live information back to base.
Mr Taylor said one American university had expressed interest and wanted to fly the UAV into a hurricane to gather detailed data.
“We’re also looking at whether we can use radio frequency identification to find stock out in the field,” Mr Taylor said.
Mr Taylor has brought the business to Wagga after it was sold by founder Bob Young.
“It’s so much easier to go down to a small farm or airport (for testing),” he said.
At the moment commercial UAV market is heavily restricted by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Silvertone Electronics are part of an industry working group aiming to open up the market, but also maintain safety.
Project manager Travis Downie said it was difficult to define regulations for UAVs but was enthusiastic to see Australia set a benchmark for the world.
“Our vision is to create an industry here in Wagga, we’ve got the team, we’ve got the product and we’re working with the regulators,” Mr Downie said.
CASA’s rules for flying drones
- Drones must be operated in line-of-sight during daylight.
- Must not fly closer than 30 metres to buildings, people, boats or vehicles.
- Cannot be flown over any populous area such as a sporting ground with a game in progress, or populated parks or backyards.
- Must not fly higher than 120 metres (400 feet) and not within 5.5 kilometres of an airfield.
- Cannot be operated commercially without an operator’s license from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).