North Queensland's chance to leverage aviation services boom

NORTH Queensland and the wider northwest can leverage the global demand for aviation services by making pilot training more available and capitalise on the region's "open skies" to create "drone zones".

The recommendations come as part of a Regional Development Australia Townsville and North Queensland study into the region's opportunities for growth in the aviation sector.

"A Boeing report has forecasted a significant demand for aviation services across the world - 790,000 new pilots and 754,000 new technicians would be needed over the next 20 years," RDA chief executive Glenys Schuntner said.

"So it is important we determine what our aviation sector business and regional development opportunities are."

According to the report, the use of "unmanned aerial systems" or drones was progressing across many farming and mining applications and opportunities exist for "pay by the hour" services.

Example of a drone. In this photo taken Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, a drone to spray the breeding grounds of malaria-carrying mosquitoes is tested at Cheju paddy farms in the southern Cheju region of the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania. (AP Photo/Haroub Hussein)
Example of a drone. In this photo taken Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, a drone to spray the breeding grounds of malaria-carrying mosquitoes is tested at Cheju paddy farms in the southern Cheju region of the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania. (AP Photo/Haroub Hussein)

 

The report found the "open skies" of Queensland and rural Australia were also being recognised as a place drone companies could undertake testing and development.

Collaboration with Central Queensland University in Cairns to become part of its network for pilot training has also been recommended.

But there are weaknesses in Townsville that could impact growth, particularly the complexity of the airspace due to the presence of the Australian Defence Force and its "military exercises and operations".

This would impact the ability to attract and retain major operators, the report stated, and affects student pilot training circuits.

RDA committee member Mary Brown said aviation in rural and regional Queensland formed an integral part of the lifeblood of the communities.

"With the worldwide shortage of pilots and aircraft engineers, the aviation industry also has the capacity to provide significant opportunities for the North and North West region to develop their own regional capacities, as well as expand into servicing international demand," she said.

Ms Schuntner said the discussion paper was being released ahead of workshops with key representatives to be held in Townsville, Mount Isa and online in December.

"The Aviation Industry Development workshops will commence the process of exploring aviation opportunities in our RDA region," she said.