Advanced Air Mobility News

Social Licence is Key to AAM Future in Australia

by Emma Kelly

Social Licence is Key to AAM Future in Australia

A failure to secure community acceptance for advanced air mobility (AAM) is the “biggest potential handbrake” to its development in Australia, Dr Reece Clothier, president of the Australian Association for Uncrewed Systems (AAUS) and senior manager, global regulatory strategy, product and services at Boeing told delegates at the recent AAUS AAM Summit.

The industry needs to address community concerns in a “genuine and timely manner”, he says, with concerns existing around noise, privacy, safety and visual pollution. “We can’t be so naïve to think the opportunities and benefits will shield us from community concerns,” he says, adding it is an all-of-industry problem and a stakeholder engagement strategy is required.

Australia has the opportunity to “revolutionize transportation and connect communities like never before”, but it is crucial to take the community on that journey, concurs Richard Wood, first assistant secretary at the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communication and the Arts.

Wisk Aero has already started engaging with the community well in advance of its entry into service, says Asia-Pacific regional director Catherine MacGowan. The company recently displayed its Cora electric, self-flying air vehicle in Brisbane as it works towards demonstrations at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. Wisk is engaging with communities that can’t currently access medical and educational services, regional authorities, universities and disability advocates, identifying who its passengers will be and how safe they will feel, as well as those who will experience overflights, says MacGowan.

Lessons can be learned from Wing, which launched on-demand drone delivery services in Australia in 2019, currently serving Logan in Queensland and Canberra. Wing also operates in the United States and Europe, but “Australia is by far our most advanced market. It’s the drone delivery capital of the world,” says Maria Caranzarti, head of marketing and communications. Wing made more than 100,000 deliveries in Australia in 2021, with over 1,000 performed in a single day, delivering pharmaceuticals, food and beverages and grocery items.

“Social acceptance has been a journey for us,” says Caranzarti. The company focused from the start on communicating the benefits of the service – speed, cost, accessibility, scalability, safety and sustainability – to the local community followed by constant education with the broader community. Wing addressed the community concerns involving noise, safety and privacy by changing the propellor on its drone, cutting the noise by half; educating the community on the multiple redundancy of its drones; and keeping the community informed of what its drones are doing and where they are flying. The company collaborated with governments at all levels on community communications and carefully considered the location for its services. Wing used outreach, demonstrations, pop-up events and flyers to engage the broader community.

Caranzarti advises understanding the goals of the city you are operating in and communicating the benefits of the service, stressing the importance of early and ongoing community outreach.

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