Drone technology expert Ron Bartsch is calling for a comprehensive government campaign to establish clear safety rules around the sharing of airspace by both military and civilian unmanned aircraft.
Discussing emerging developments in Australian and global drone technology with Defence Connect, Bartsch – the Asia-Pacific president of the RPAS Consortium – acknowledged the varying applications of drones used for defence purposes as compared with civilian applications.
"What we’ve got to do is have a whole-of-government approach and have all the stakeholders there, because if military applications are going to be used, at some stage they're going to share the same airspace as civilian aircraft," he said. "Therefore, there's got to be at least an equivalent level of safety of those defence aircraft."
While Bartsch noted a convergence between air force, defence and the civilian arena around recent moves involving some specific airports, which had previously been either civil or military airports, he said that in terms of the airspace itself, "when aircraft are flying they don't know whether they're military or civilian".
"Therefore the standards and the safety to which they're operated has got to be the same," he added. "I'm talking federal and state government, because the problem is irrespective of the capability or the capacity of a particular drone.
"If it's to be used to its full extent, and that's both within a military and a defence context, it's got to be safe and it's got to be reliable and it's got to have the integrity and the robustness to be able to operate effectively."