Aerovironment has become the first unmanned air vehicle manufacturer to fly mini-UAVs legally in an Australian state capital city.

A series of demonstration flights was carried out in Brisbane, Queensland's capital, on 25-27 October using Aerovironment RQ-11B Raven systems.

The UAVs flew along a 1km section of the 200m (655ft)-wide Brisbane River, and were required to remain over water for the 5min flights.

The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority approved the trials under its regulations for model aircraft operations, rather than its UAV regulatory framework.

The UAVs were remote controlled and were hand-launched from the riverside forecourt areas of the Brisbane Performing Arts Centre in an area of high pedestrian traffic.

The recoveries were timed for periods when there was no pedestrian traffic near the touchdown point.

The UAVs were required to remain at low altitude for the duration of each sortie, airspace above the city forming part of the western approaches to Brisbane International airport.

They provided real-time imagery of vehicle traffic on Brisbane's waterside freeway network and river bridges, pedestrians walking through the Southbank riverside park and ferry traffic operating along the river.

The aircraft were attacked on a number of occasions by large crows, which appeared to have evolved their own counter-UAV tactics over the three days of the trial. The birds initially attempted diving assaults on the UAVs from above and behind, then changed to frontal attacks, probably because the RQ-11B uses a pusher propeller.

Source: Flight International