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Drone trial to expand to northside

With a controversial trial of drone delivery services in the Tuggeranong suburb of Bonython still yet to be complete, Project Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, is looking at warehouse sites in Mitchell with the intention of starting a North Canberra drone delivery service in 2019.

A Project Wing spokesperson told Canberra Weekly they have decided to develop a long-term site in the North Canberra industrial area that will be home to what they believe is “the most advanced drone delivery site in the world”.

“The existing warehouse will be fitted to accommodate our drones, with space for some merchants and small businesses from Mitchell and the Gungahlin region.

“In the coming weeks we’ll be engaging with the community, specifically looking to engage residents in Franklin, Palmerston, Harrison, Crace and Gungahlin.”

Project Wing will conduct a series of community consultations including stalls at shopping centres, a new website with contact details, door knocking and more. They will look to launch their North Canberra service in early to mid-2019, with no hard date set.

Federal Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann told ABC Radio Canberra earlier this month that 124 people have contacted her office regarding the Bonython done delivery trials.

“Nineteen are positive on the Project Wing trial, 91 are negative and 14 are neutral.

“In terms of the issues that they’ve raised, noise is the biggest with 47 people having complained about the noise, 27 about privacy, 12 about wildlife, 15 concerned about pets,” she said.

Ms Brodtmann called for an independent review before Project Wing moves into their North Canberra phase of testing “to actually look at the lessons learned”.

“To consult with the community about their views on it; to go through the detail about what is happening to the data, and to answer some of those questions.

“I understand the benefits of drones for emergency services, crisis and bushfire management, and agriculture management … In delivery of fast food, hydrolytes – I think we do need to be having a conversation about it in the community,” she said.

The Project Wing spokesperson said while their drones are quieter than a range of noises experienced in an urban setting, they make a unique sound people are unfamiliar with.

“Out of the feedback from Bonython we’re modifying the propeller of the drone to make it quieter, we’re changing our flight paths to minimise disturbances and we’ve slowed our drones down,” they said.

In regards to privacy concerns raised by the community, the spokesperson explained their drone has an onboard, redundant camera that doesn’t transmit footage.

“Our aircraft use GPS to navigate and have a number of redundant systems on board should that not be working, one of which is a camera that’s used to measure speed, latitude and longitude, and doesn’t capture video.

“The footage it takes is in greyscale, low-res stills that’s not transmitted, only accessed by small group of engineers who evaluate the small frames.

“We take privacy extremely seriously and don’t capture any more information than necessary.”

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