Flying Robots in the Skies Above Our Neighbourhoods: Are North Shore Councils and Communities Ready for Drones?

27 April 2018

The report explores both the risks and opportunities offered by the drone market and intends to initiate a dialogue between drone retailers, commercial drone operators, regulators and local councils. From both a planning and regulatory point of view, the North Sydney Innovation Network believes it is important for all stakeholders to work together to maximise the opportunities offered by drones.

Below you can read the key recommendations and Executive Summary from the report and you can:

The report was launched on the 27th April in North Sydney. Thanks to the supporters of the launch, most notably those in the drone industry: David Morgan from High Exposure and Annette McClelland and Michael Griffin from Tekuma. We’d also like to thank Trent Zimmerman, MP and Flynn McDermott for hosting the launch.


  1. That all North Shore Councils and urban planning bodies foster the development and adoption of technology and innovation policy that improves the inclusivity, sustainability and liveability in our communities.
  2. That all organisations involved in the planning of our future cities and towns consider the opportunities from drone technology along with the broader requirements of data and information infrastructure.
  3. That the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) review its guidelines to make them more easily understood and accessible and continue to support and improve the Can I Fly There App. The NSIN notes both of these can be achieved through CASA seeking more direct feedback from drone users. NSIN is happy to coordinate this on the North Shore.
  4. That North Shore Councils lead a community awareness campaign concerning privacy and respect for others in the community, specifically directed at hobby and commercial drone photographers, supplementing CASA regulations with local protocols where appropriate.
  5. That CASA support the above-mentioned public awareness campaign and promote its Can I Fly There App.
  6. That North Shore Councils recognise drone use in their strategic and local planning, through a number of avenues, including the establishment of permanent educational signage (detailing the safe operation of drones) in open spaces and community education as described above. Councils can also actively support the deployment of drone services by provisioning for the local infrastructure required, including drone landing sites and hubs.
  7. That North Shore Councils lead (the North Sydney Innovation Network is happy to coordinate) a meeting with drone developers, sellers, users and community members about the challenges and opportunities for drones on Sydney’s North Shore as part of creating the ‘smart cityscapes’ of the future.

Executive Summary

  • Drones (formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)) are an increasing presence in our day to day lives both in recreational, civil and commercial contexts.
  • Globally the military market for drones is expected to continue to outpace all other sectors in spending but the fastest growth opportunity for drones is from businesses and civil governments. It is predicted that these entities will spend $13 billion on drones between now and 2020, putting thousands of them in the sky. Goldman Sachs Research also suggests that the global commercial drone market alone will exceed $20 billion by 2021 and that cumulatively the drones market will evolve into a $100 billion market by 2020.
  • In rural and less-populated areas, the use of drones in agricultural surveying and land management, offers significant advantages, without some of the safety and privacy concerns of metropolitan areas.
  • Drones also offer some remarkable opportunities to enhance the lives of many and to save and preserve life, particularly in the context of their use in military combat situations and firefighting. Similarly, their use in urban planning and infrastructure underpinned by the power of open data, is an opportunity that councils should not overlook.  
  • Most north shore Sydney councils we surveyed currently do not have a specific policy on the operation of drones in their Local Government Area (LGA) and instead defer to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulations.
  • There is an opportunity for councils to take more of a leadership role in the safe and efficient operation of drones in their LGA, for example by educating residents on the relevant CASA regulations, holding information nights on safe operation and preparing for the inclusion of drones by planning for necessary drone infrastructure now.
  • There are strict regulations governing the use of both commercial and recreational drones, including the requirement for commercial enterprises to obtain an operator licence. The sheer scale of the consumer drone market however, makes policing their operation increasingly difficult.
  • There are some significant risks involved in the unregulated operation of drones, with collisions causing injuries and deaths around the world. At the LGA level, this could result in the injury of adults, children or pets in our community spaces and parks.
  • In addition to safety concerns, there are also potential issues of noise and privacy to consider in the operation of drones by both private individuals, commercial and government enterprises.
  • It is important for local governments to consider the implications of drone use in their LGAs now, both from the perspective of planning for their safe and efficient operation and to maximise the opportunity this innovative technology offers.

Read more: