Unmanned cargo aircraft could take to the skies before New Zealand’s New Southern Sky project is completed in eight years’ time, according to the Airways New Zealand project chief.
Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, Steve Smyth, New Southern Sky director, said that not only would drone freight flights become a reality but that the air navigation service provider would also endeavour to integrate into its operations unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and even commercial space payloads as the new systems will manage airspace all the way to the edge of the atmosphere.
New Southern Sky will take 10 years to implement the National Airspace and Air Navigation Plan, approved by the New Zealand Government in 2014 and aims to save the nation NZ$2 billion (US$1.35 billion) over the next 20 years by replacing ageing air traffic management systems.
Smyth said that in addition to more direct flights, the new system will link airports to each other through System Wide Information Management which will lead to better flight management that reduces the number of arriving aircraft waiting in costly and environmentally damaging holding patterns.
Next month a conference at Auckland Airport will review progress after the first two-year stage of the project.
Smyth said the changes reflect a similar technology switch elsewhere in the world. “Many of the challenges are the same everywhere. We’ll have speakers coming to our conference from the UK and the US. We differ in terms of size and scale that gives us the ability to be more agile. Here we have the ability to test systems, that’s not always the case overseas.”