Whining drones bringing burritos and coffee are bitterly dividing Canberra residents



Posted

November 09, 2018 20:47:29

They are a form of technology that implies swift, incognito surveillance, but the high-pitched whine of delivery drones is making life miserable for a group of Canberra residents.

A trial of fast-food delivery by unmanned aircraft began in Bonython in September, offering up fast food to residents living within 10 kilometres of a base operated by the company, Wing.

The company hopes to expand its service, and will introduce another trial to Mitchell next year, but the trial has caused anger among some Bonython resident.

They complained the drones created noise pollution, invaded privacy and deterred native wildlife, particularly birds.

Bonython resident Irena said the daily life of her family was severely impacted, and admitted she took her children away from the house for hours each weekend just to escape the sound of drones.

“With the windows closed, even with double glazing, you can hear the drones,” Irena said.

“We’re worried about the noise issue, the issue about privacy, we’re worried about the wildlife that seems to have disappeared from the area — there aren’t as many birds as before.

“From a quarter past seven in the morning we’d hear our first drone flyover and you won’t be able to sleep for the rest of the day because the drones are flying from 7am to 4pm.”

Those behind the action group Bonython Against Drones said more than 500 people has signed a petition calling for the drones to be banned.

Robyn, who had been door-knocking about the issue, said she estimated 80 per cent of those living in the suburb opposed the drones.

“What concerns residents is that the drones are fitted with cameras and it records data,” Irena said.

“We don’t know what’s happening with that data.

“The visual landscape of Canberra is about to be changed forever in a negative way and that really concerns us because what we’re used to as a bush capital is fresh air, clear skies and the sound of nature and we’re about to lose that.”

A new frontier for food delivery

Chief Minister Andrew Barr told ABC Radio Canberra the service and the trial were not regulated by the ACT Government, but suggested any noise created by them was no different to other residential sounds such as lawnmowers.

“I would say Canberra generally leans positively towards any new technology,” he said.

“If there is a view that noisy activities should be further restricted, then people won’t be able to mow their lawns outside of approved hours because a lawnmower engine is as noisy and irritating to neighbours as a drone engine can be.”

But according to anti-drone residents, the two were not comparable.

“I would suggest that if other residents heard 40 lawnmowers flying overhead they would be as distressed as we are about the drones,” Irena said.

Robyn said she came across a World War II veteran living in Bonython who had been traumatised by the sound of a drone, which reminded him of war-time aircraft.

Another woman, she claimed, suffered from migraines and was concerned they would be worsened by the noise.

“Jobs and economy is great, but humanity is more important,” she said.

While unmanned aircraft are regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, privacy and noise are not among their responsibilities.

For Robyn and Irena, that is a source of anxiety.

“Drones are a type of aircraft so somebody has to regulate them,” Robyn said.

“The question is, who?”

‘Totally worth it’

Tuggeranong resident Jamie Hengst said she used the drone service regularly.

“We can get food that we can’t normally get in Tuggeranong delivered hot and fresh to us within 10 minutes, so honestly the little bit of noise you get for five minutes is totally worth it,” she said.

Ms Hengst also dismissed privacy concerns, which numbered among the complaints by the action group.

“The drones run by GPS so there are no cameras whatsoever,” she said.

Wing chief executive officer James Ryan Burgess said most complaints since the trial began related to noise pollution.

“We’re having a quieter aircraft that’s in development that we would like to be able to demonstrate shortly,” Mr Burgess said.

The Bonython trial will wind up in February, before moving to Mitchell next year, when north Canberra residents will be able to have their say on the innovation.

Topics:

safety,

pollution,

australia,

act,

canberra-2600,

bonython-2905



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