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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Residents groan over drone trial

A drone food delivery trial in the Tuggeranong suburb of Bonython has stirred a mixed response from local residents, with a number being frustrated by the noise and potential safety risks while others have been pleased with the convenience.

Federal Member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann said she received a number of complaints from local residents that touched on a variety of topics including the declining number of birds in the area, their rights to privacy, the noise pollution and uncertainty surrounding the trial length and potential expansion.

Ms Brodtmann met with Project Wing, a division of tech-giant Alphabet who are conducting the drone delivery trial, in September to discuss their work.

“I had a long list of questions. Many residents of Bonython were completely unaware that this trial was going to take place, despite the fact that Project Wing told me the community was notified by a letterbox drop and through community events.

“The number of people who claimed they were unaware has left me wondering who actually conducted these consultations and how long the consultation period went for.”

Ms Brodtmann said she was left with questions about the privacy and cybersecurity of the data recorded by these drones.

“What information is being captured, what customer data is being recorded and what cybersecurity standards (does) Project Wing has in place to secure this data.”

Ms Brodtmann also expressed frustration at the fact no deadline had been set for the trial.

“So, we have a trial happening in my electorate for a drone delivery service and we don’t actually have an end date. What does that mean? Is this going to go on ad infinitum?”

A spokesperson for Project Wing told Canberra Weekly they’re grateful for the feedback from the Bonython community, both positive and negative, which helps them improve their service.

They said Canberra is the first city in the world to participate in a trial like this.

“Over the course of the trial we’ve successfully delivered things more quickly, safely and conveniently, and with far less of a carbon footprint than would otherwise be possible, including meals to testers that aren’t able to drive due to medical issues, or to parents whose children are sick, or to shift workers and others on tight schedules.”

They reported receiving feedback from a number of customers who, for a range of reasons, benefit from not having to leave their homes for food and small household items.

“One of the lessons from the trial, and from what we’ve heard in feedback from surveys from the larger Canberra population, is that having a site in a more industrial area would be preferred and we are looking at options,” the spokesperson said.

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