QLD starts supermarket drone delivery for northern Gold Coast customers

Key points:

  • Northern Gold Coast drone grocery deliveries start Wednesday, November 2
  • Customised autonomous drones weigh 5 kilograms and travel at 110 kilometres per hour
  • The drone weight limit of 1 kg means it is targeted more for small, forgotten ingredients

Northern Gold Coast residents will next week become the first customers in Queensland to access supermarket drone deliveries.

After a trial in Canberra, the first drone store-to-door delivery will be offered to residents of Ormeau, Ormeau Hills and Yatala from November 2.

But an academic has warned commercial and private drone operators to fly carefully to avoid legal headaches in the new age of hyper-convenience.

Contractors Wing Australia has partnered with supermarket giant Coles to run the deliveries.

“We don’t see drone delivery replacing the weekly shop that you do,” Wing general manager Simon Rossi said.

The drone weight limit of 1 kilogram means it is targeted more for small, forgotten ingredients and alcohol is not allowed.

“It’s more about getting the items that you need in a hurry,” Mr Rossi said.

White and yellow drone in the sky.
Contractors Wing Australia has partnered with supermarket giant Coles to run the deliveries.(Supplied)

The groceries are packed into a small cardboard box carried by custom-designed drones.

“For example, if you’ve run out of bread in the morning for kids’ lunches, you can quickly order a drone to have the bread delivered in minutes,” he said.

Divided household

Smiling man in bright colourful shirt with trolley full of shopping.
Riza Yerlikaya is keen to try supermarket drone shopping.(ABC Gold Coast: Cathy Border)

The prospect of drone-delivered groceries has divided the Yerlikaya household in Ormeau.

“I’m into my technology. I would most definitely give it a go,” Riza Yerlikaya said.

But his partner Sevda Yerlikaya said safety was a concern for her.

“It’s a completely bad idea. Dogs jumping at it. I’m all for safety for the kids,” Ms Yerlikaya said.

Lady in colourful dress smiling at supermarket entrance.
Janet Kolar says she will stick to traditional supermarket shopping.(ABC Gold Coast: Cathy Border)

For nearby Kingsholme acreage resident Janet Kolar, the prospect of drone grocery shopping is not practical.

“I do a giant shop, so it wouldn’t really work for me,” she said.

“We buy bulk food in case we get flooded in, or the power goes out.”

How it works

The drones weigh five kilograms and rise to about 70 metres high.

They will fly at 110 kilometres per hour to the customer’s destination and then lower to about seven metres off the ground.

The drone will then gently lower the box to the ground before returning to base.

The high-tech service is autonomous, but licensed pilots will overview the process.

“They’re looking for things like other aircraft that might fly into our space or looking at the weather patterns,” Mr Rossi said.

Woman loading car at supermarket click and collect point.
The number of ways to do grocery shopping has grown over the years.(ABC Gold Coast: Cathy Border)

It is the latest delivery option following online shopping and car collection.

The drones will be downed if police helicopters are in the region’s airspace or they reach a certain threshold of high winds and low visibility.

Safety and noise must be considered

Associate professor at Bond University’s Faculty of Law Wendy Bonython said more drone use could, in extreme cases, lead to negligence lawsuits or other legal issues.

“There are a couple of things that are going to be important. One is making sure [the drones] are not actually going to collide with one another,” she said.

“You really don’t want to have two heavily laden drones carrying loads of groceries crashing into each other over someone’s roof or in their backyard and falling on the kids in the trampoline.

“So, safety is one [issue].”

Bond University associate law professor Wendy Bonython stands in a red jacket
Bond University associate law professor Wendy Bonython says there is only two ways to legally get CBD products in Queensland.(Supplied)

Dr Bonython said there were also potential issues around “noise pollution” from drone activity.

“You might not particularly want drones flying over your back garden at 7:30am every Sunday morning as your next-door neighbour gets a hot coffee delivered,” she said

Bird hazards elsewhere

The legal academic said a statutory framework regulating commercial drone use would clear up any legal grey areas.

“We’re likely to see people certainly having a go at bringing claims in private law nuisance about drones flying overhead,” she said.

“Now, the way around that is if you set up a statutory framework, and this has happened in some other jurisdictions … which specify hours of operation and months of operation.”

Dr Bonython said a previous trial had shown the drones were posing a significant hazard or challenge to certain bird species at certain times of the year.

She said regulation would also be needed to avoid private drones getting in the way of commercial operators.

“And you would expect to see a fairly robust insurance scheme, so a drone doesn’t just drop onto an innocent person’s property,” Dr Bonython said.

Extracted from ABC News

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