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Local government’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones as they are more commonly known, was put on display in Bundaberg this week, with more than 40 businesses and council representatives from the Wide Bay region discussing the technology.

Hosted by the Bundaberg Regional Council, the forum attracted councillors and senior staff, drone experts V-tol, law firm King and Co, neighbouring councils, the LGAQ and LGIS.

Key topics included the legalities of introducing council drone services as well as the benefits of using drones as part of asset management, pest and plant management, disaster management and mapping.

Councils also focussed their obligations in investing in drone technology.

LGAQ chief executive Greg Hallam said drones were a text-book example of where buying a service instead of investing in the asset should be a key decision for any business model.

“The devices themselves are rapidly changing, not only in design and capability, but in areas like camera lens optics and battery life – you can quickly invest in a technology orphan,” Mr Hallam said.

He said another major issue for councils was the regulatory environment.

“The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is effectively treating these devices as aircraft so there are stringent requirements around users being properly accredited, devices meeting specific standards and a plethora of record keeping involving things like flight plans, log books and maintenance,” he said.

“Even if you meet these requirements, consideration then needs to be given to ensuring the data that is captured is able to be used and stored securely, while able to be integrated with existing Council systems,” he said.

At the Bundaberg demonstration day, fixed wing and rotor drones captured different types of data using mapping and infra-red sensors from the Qanaba Landfill.

A report showing the interpretation of the data, down to 10mm accuracy, was completed that afternoon, demonstrating the quick turnaround time from capturing the data to being able to make analytical decisions.

The LGAQ’s Bush Councils Convention in St George on 29-31 July will also feature a presentation and live demonstration of drone technology.

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