Charles Darwin to showcase new drone capabilities at Katherine Open Day

Charles Darwin University (CDU) will demonstrate its expanded capabilities in drone education, training and research at the CDU Katherine Rural Campus Open Day tomorrow. Image credit: Charles Darwin University

Charles Darwin University (CDU) is set to demonstrate its burgeoning capabilities in drone education, training and research at the CDU Katherine Rural Campus Open Day tomorrow.

In a news release, the university revealed that the Northern Territory’s first research, training, and test flight centre for drones, the North Australia Centre for Autonomous Systems (NACAS), has been established at the campus to help build the capacity for drone technology in the Katherine region.

To date, over 250 square kilometres of tropical savannah and semi-arid land are being developed by NACAS as a new drone airspace corridor from Katherine to 30 kilometres north of the town.

In particular, the drone corridor is being built specifically for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drones, which fly outside the pilot’s direct sight range. 

The remoteness of the Northern Territory, including the area surrounding Katherine, according to CDU Chief Remote Pilot Rebecca Ludgate, is perfect for BVLOS drone testing because the land is sparsely populated.  

“The remote airspace is expected to provide an important BVLOS drone testing site for CDU researchers, as well as commercial organisations, such as drone manufacturers,” Ludgate said.  

She further explained “For instance, CDU researchers plan to use the airspace to build capacity in BLVOS operations as part of a trial program exploring the potential for drone technology to deliver life-saving medical supplies to remote First Nations communities in the West Arnhem region.”

The CDU pilot also pointed out that the new airspace is anticipated to serve as an essential training ground for CDU students to develop their technical proficiency in drone operations, including technologies utilising BVLOS and Visual Line of Sight (VLOS).

Dr Rebecca Rogers, CDU drone program coordinator, stated that the airspace enables a suite of new education and training options in remote pilot aviation that will be delivered at the CDU Katherine Rural Campus in 2023 and 2024.

“These Katherine-based options include Certificate III Aviation (Remote Pilot) and a VET Delivery for Secondary Schools (VETDSS) program, in partnership with National Drones, which creates a pathway to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers for young Territorians from years nine to 12,” Dr Rogers said.

She added that later this year, Katherine schools will have access to the CDU drone program, which will give students a taste of the Certificate III qualification.

At the Katherine Rural Campus Open Day this weekend, residents of the Katherine area will have the chance to learn more about these expanded study options and gain new drone technology knowledge from a CDU team of remote pilot aviation experts.

A drone display, a simulator for operating drones, and a space where visitors may operate miniature drones while receiving expert instruction are all part of the Open Day.

The event, to be held tomorrow from 9 am to 1 pm also features free children’s activities, a portable stockyard, live music, tours of the on-campus working farm and stud, and market vendors.