We’re partnering with Thales to imagine a safe and secure ecosystem for the management of Australia’s low-altitude airspace.

Our partnership with Thales aims to make it safer for manned aviation vehicles and drones to collaborate and share airspace.

In recent years, drones have become incredibly popular for recreational and commercial use, but the technical capability to monitor and safely coordinate airspace traffic between drones and general aviation has not taken off as quickly.

Australia’s general and commercial aviation industry already has regulation and a robust technology platform to manage the airspace that passenger aircraft fly in. We want to bring that level of safety and security to low-altitude airspace to enable both recreational drone enthusiasts and commercial UAV operators to fly their craft with peace of mind. This type of system could also inform general aviation of the locations and intended flight paths of drones.

We’ve been exploring the potential of our 4G and 5G mobile technology, and our extensive long-range IoT networks, to enable monitoring of all kinds of vehicles in low-altitude airspace. We see a future where a drone operator might be able to simply plan and prepare a flight through an app on their phone and where authorities have the ability to dynamically open and close airspace using temporary flight restrictions if necessary.

The prototype air traffic control platform that we are developing with Thales, called Low Altitude Airspace Management (or LAAM), is capable of integrating both manned and unmanned aerial vehicles and providing automated drone flight approvals, amongst other features. The platform can also provide near-real-time notifications, which is helpful in managing dynamic, high-traffic areas. In situations where a drone pilot needs to change course to make room for a first responder such as a helicopter ambulance, near-real-time notifications enable the instructions to be relayed to the drone efficiently and safely. Our work with Thales will also allow the development of new products, services, and innovations in the UAV industry.

There are extraordinary opportunities for the widespread take-up of unmanned aerial vehicles in Australia. To unlock this potential, we are investigating how we can use our 4G and 5G mobile technology and IoT capabilities to make secure and reliable communication, navigation and monitoring of UAVs possible. Our work with Thales on LAAM, underpinned by continuous investment in and improvement of our networks around the country, proves that it’s possible for manned flights and UAVs to operate together effectively and safely in our skies.