In late February 2018, food delivery drones were launched in Canberra with the full support of the ACT government. The American tech company responsible, Project Wing, is a sister company of Alphabet (the company that owns Google and X Development LLC), so it’s certainly understandable that the ACT government seized the opportunity. However, not all Bonython residents are happy about the trial with many objecting to the noise, the impact on native wildlife and the potential invasion of their privacy.

Drone Delivery Canberra: The Negatives

Perhaps the biggest issue that has residents up in arms is the lack of consultation with the community prior to the trial starting. The privatisation of public space is a hot topic in Canberra, and residents are concerned that their communities are being irreversibly transformed.

“When a development will have major impacts on the lives of a large number of people, we need to make the decision about it together, making sure evidence is collected and people’s voices are heard. It’s called democracy.”

Noise is of course the other issue. Often described as a ‘high-pitched whine’ or compared to the noise from lawn mowers, drones are impacting residents in a number of ways. Disrupted sleep, anxiety, migraines and triggering of war time memories are just some of the symptoms being reported. The impact on local wildlife is also a concern:

“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.”

Some reports suggest that around 80 percent of Bonython residents oppose the drones and more than 500 people have signed a petition calling for drones to be banned from Bonython.

Project Wing Canberra: The Positives

While lack of community consultation and noise are clearly big issues, not everyone is against the idea with many residents taking full advantage of the convenience of the drone food delivery service:

“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.”

Project Wing also claims that the noise of a drone is quieter than a truck making the same delivery and are confident that once people are familiar with the noise they will embrace the technology.

There are plans to expand the drone delivery service with Wing setting up a warehouse in Mitchell. The suburbs of Gungahlin, Palmerston, Crace and Franklin are set to have drone deliveries rolled out to them.

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