Early Project Wing tests were conducted in rural areas, where there are fewer houses. (Supplied: Project Wing)
A drone-delivered dinner sounds delightful in theory, but some Canberrans have raised concerns when faced with the possibility of being buzzed by a burrito flying at 120 kilometres per hour.
With Project Wing, a part of Google’s X ‘Moonshot’ project, preparing to make deliveries of Mexican food and over-the-counter drugs to the suburb of Bonython, the issue of privacy has been thrust front and centre.
The drones have been tested with hundreds of deliveries in rural areas, but the next step is a move into suburbia — with added navigational challenges like trees and powerlines.
With testing set to continue in the more densely populated Tuggeranong area, those in charge have had to allay fears people’s privacy will be violated.
Unfortunately, there are no drone-specific privacy laws in Australia, according to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
“You don’t own the airspace above your property, aircraft can fly above your house and so can drones,” CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said.
“In this case they’ll be about 30 metres above the ground — quite a way up — so the privacy issues for this trial are really no different to an aircraft flying over.”
Data gathered by drones stored for 30 days
While the similarities between a plane at 30,000 feet and a drone at 30m are debatable, a spokeswoman for Project Wing said residents need not worry, despite the drones’ range of sensors including GPS and a downward-facing camera.
“The camera is used as part of a back-up navigation system to ensure the drone flies safely and that’s what the camera’s footage is used for,” Alexa Dennett said.
“Access to that data is really tightly managed within our team and only used for technical, de-bugging purposes and it’s not published or shared with anyone outside the team.
Project Wing said any data gathered by its drones was securely stored for 30 days. (Supplied: Project Wing)
“We’ve also gone to extensive measures to ensure that we actively avoid capturing more data than is necessary for the safe operation of our drones.”
She said the data was stored on secure servers for 30 days before being deleted.
A statement from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner said any business that may collect personal information had to adhere to the Privacy Act.
“This would include giving notice to affected individuals about the collection of their personal information, only using and disclosing the personal information as permitted by the Privacy Act, and keeping it secure,” the statement read.
Project Wing plans to launch its first deliveries in Tuggeranong “in the next week or two” and recently hosted a barbecue to engage with locals to figure out how their needs differ from those in rural areas, where a big portion of delivery requests was for farming supplies.
“We obviously initially anticipate testing with just Bonython, but we hope to roll out to the rest of Tuggeranong as our testing permits,” Ms Dennett said.
She did not elaborate on any plans to expand across the rest of Canberra.