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Ben Long
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Media are invited to attend the drones, 3D printing and flight simulators demonstrations at 1.40pm and 3.25pm on Thursday 1 June at iAccelerate, UOW Innovation Campus. Professor Robinson, Professor Chisholm and Professor Gorkin are available for interview via the UOW Media Office or the contact details below.

High resolution images of Professor Robinson and Professor Gorkin are available from Dropbox.


Ben Long, Media & Corporate Communications Coordinator, T: +61 2 4221 3887 | M: +61 429 294 251 | E:

UOW Media Office, T: +61 4221 4227 | E:

Workshop looks at how drones are revolutionising science and business

Academics and entrepreneurs come together to discuss innovative new uses of technology

As airborne drones become cheaper and more accessible they are revolutionising the way academic researchers go about their work, providing new ways to collect data and access areas that previously were difficult to map.

Environmental researchers at the University of Wollongong (UOW) will discuss some of the ways they are using drone systems at a two-day workshop, “Drones at UOW: Elevating Environmental Research”, on Wednesday 31 May and Thursday 1 June. A number of industry representatives and start-up businesses will also share insights on how they are using the technology.

The workshop is hosted by iAccelerate (iA) and sponsored by UOW’s Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Solutions (CSES) and Advantage SME.

Some of the uses drones are being put to include capturing 3D renditions of fragile indigenous rock art, spotting sharks off popular swimming beaches, and improving safety for rock fishers.

Senior Professor Sharon Robinson, Co-Director of UOW’s Centre for Sustainable Ecosystem Solutions (CSES), has been using drones to assess the health of Antarctic vegetation and said they were a cost-efficient method of mapping vegetation health in remote or dangerous areas.

“Traditional ground-based assessments of vegetation health are not ideal in Antarctica, as they can destroy the vegetation and are physically demanding in the harsh weather conditions. Drone-based monitoring produces similar results to traditional techniques, but with much greater efficiency and no damage to the vegetation,” Professor Robinson said.

“They require less time spent in the field, thus measurements can be repeated at more frequent intervals than with traditional monitoring techniques.”

Associate Professor Laurie Chisholm from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and a fellow CSES member, will address some of the issues researchers need to be aware of when using drones.

“Acquiring data using remote sensing has been around a long time, with the ability to use a range of spectral sensors to map what the human eye cannot see,” Professor Chisholm said.

“The trick is to ensure a consistent and scientific approach to the research data lifecycle, with an aim to gather real data that informs research outcomes, particularly if spectral sensing and/or monitoring are involved.”

Keynote speaker Dr Barbara Bollard-Breen from Auckland University of Technology will share insights from 20 years’ experience in remote sensing. She has used drones to map habitats and landscapes to assist conservation planning in diverse locations from Antarctica to Namibia.

Drones web2The Drones at UOW workshop brings scientific researchers and technology businesses together.



One of the aims of the workshop is to create a collaborative network of academics and industry representatives while upskilling researchers and entrepreneurs to take advantage of different platforms for remotely collecting data.

Associate Professor Robert Gorkin from UOW's Australian Institute for Innovative Materials and current Researcher in Residence at iA, said drones were becoming a part of everyday business, with their data capturing abilities being used for industries including agriculture, civil engineering, real estate, media, and surveillance, even safety.

“Drone platforms offer a dynamic way to extend our interaction with the world around us. They're our eyes, ears, even hands in the sky – whether monitoring vegetation at the poles of the earth or dropping lifesaving devices to swimmers at Wollongong beaches,” Professor Gorkin said.

“The way we interact with the technology is evolving as rapidly as the drones themselves. There are questions about how to deal with legalities and privacy.

“This conference brings together a critical network within UOW and the region, including researchers using drones, companies involved in drone system development, entrepreneurs using drones for new businesses, and funders invested in expanding the benefits of drones in the community.

“It’s unique – we not only want to expand the impacts of UOW research but to enable local talent to develop new disruptive business models. Between CSES and iA, as well as other key infrastructure at UOW, we can drive innovation in the sector while promoting best practice of drone system usage – which may translate to new jobs.”

The second day will showcase “Innovation in Action”, with iA start-ups including FreeLook, Me 3D and other companies which engage with drones in a variety of ways. This new breed of companies is forging into the future and creating new markets with this advanced technology.

The day concludes with an Advantage SME networking event, “Let’s Fly: Turbocharging your business with drones and UOW”, which includes demonstrations of drones, 3D printing and flight simulators.

Advantage SME Manager Zahra Shahbazian said, “Drones also have ever-expanding applications for businesses. The Advantage SME Drones event will showcase how local businesses can transform with drones and UOW.”