WA Business News “Cyber Technology Takes Off”

Author: Saskia Pickles, Photo: Attila Csaszar

“Flying an unmanned aerial vehicle, or ‘drone’ in the vernacular, is a serious business that requires its operator hold a private pilot’s licence before taking the craft to the skies for commercial purposes.

But Balcatta-based UAV designer and manufacturer Cyber Technology has convinced the regulators that it can train operators to use its machines without the need for such a qualification, cutting the time taken to learn this skill to just two weeks.

The company hopes this change will open up this fledging market, which has been restricted by a lack of trained operators. There are a number of companies using UAVs for different commercial purposes.

The most frequent users of Cyber Technology’s UAVs are fire brigades, power pole inspectors, and businesses in the resources sector, as well as a smaller number of agricultural businesses that use them to monitor crop health.

Cyber Technology chief executive Josh Portlock said it worked with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to receive pilot training accreditation because it wanted to remove its greatest barrier to customers buying its products.

Mr Portlock, who designed the prototype while at university, said Cyber Technology had realised people weren’t hesitant to use the technology, but we’re being held back by the regulations and logistics of training people.

“We’re likely to get 50 per cent more business because we have that one-stop-shop type support for customers,” Mr Portlock told Business News.

Currently, sales of UAVs and associated systems make up the core of Cyber Technology’s business, with training making up only 5 per cent of revenue, but Mr Portlock said he expected training to grow to 15 per cent of revenue, which would promote greater sales.

More than half of the business comes from sales and training in the eastern states, while a quarter comes from Western Australia and the rest through international sales.

“What we’ve found is the early adopters have been more in the US, Asia and the eastern states. We haven’t had much early adoption from Perth but that’s not to say we haven’t had some great partners here, particularly with (government) services so we can validate our technology. We’re keen to grow our presence in WA,” Mr Portlock said.

“This last year we’ve been building up our business and making sure we’re ready to respond to the market interest and having the associated training support. This year we’re really in a growth phase where we have a strong pipeline of sales,” he said.

Cyber Technology’s UAVs can take still, video, thermal and multispectral images, the latter used to check crop health, which Sandalford Winery recently trialled.

Mr Portlock said using UAVs in the agricultural industry was in its early days, but had potential. “We’re yet to see a huge market uptake but we haven’t really promoted it either, so we’ll be curious to see the amount of interest and how much that market will grow, once people are aware of the technology and the support we can provide in licensing,” he said.”

Author: Jodi Sides