19 Dec 2012

Drone manufacturers eye up Pacific

3:22 pm on 19 December 2012

Manufacturers of drones or what are known nowadays as unmanned aircraft systems are eyeing the Pacific region as a new market for their products.

The industry is seeing a shift in use of the remotely piloted flying devices from military to civil and commercial purposes.

Gretchen West of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems in the United States says some countries in the region have expressed interest in using the vehicles to feed back information on illegal fishing.

"This technology can be more affordable than using large manned aircraft. These UAS are actually operated by a human in a ground station so they're safer to use and they're more affordable so there is interest. Even though the technology has been around for decades, it's a newer technology for this community."

Gretchen West says there are still challenges like perfecting the devices' ability to sense and avoid other aircraft and that is one of the reasons they are banned for commercial use in the United States' crowded airspace.

International and American civil aviation authorities are working on guidelines for commercial drones which have been also been used in conservation and assessing disasters like the Japanese tsunami.