• Could see “substantive growth” in the managed drone service sector as benefits become evident: Ninox Robotics’ Marcus Ehrlich
  • Privately held Ninox a leader in remotely piloted aircraft (RPAS) services to strategic industries and government
  • Heightened risks from fires, floods and unpredictable weather conditions make long-range drone tech increasingly pivotal


The Australian drone industry is at a crossroads as 2023 draws to a close, according to an industry pioneer.

With technology advances and regulatory frameworks evolving, founder and managing director of Ninox Robotics, Marcus Ehrlich, says the landscape presents opportunities, particularly in the managed drone market.

“In the managed drone service sector where we operate, which is very different to selling drones, there’s substantive growth as the benefits of using advanced drones with high-end sensor payloads have become evident,” he said.

The urgency of innovative solutions in the face of climate change has propelled demand for emergency services. With Australia grappling with heightened risks from fires, floods and unpredictable weather conditions, long-range drones, integrated with advanced sensor payloads and their expert users emerge as pivotal players in furnishing secure aerial intelligence.

“Long-range drones are now playing a critical role in mitigating risks associated with climate change,” he said.

“Ninox Robotics offers a safer means of collecting aerial intelligence which enables government and private sector clients to confront the challenges of a warming world and potentially supplant outdated forms of legacy aerial intelligence, like light planes and helicopters.”

Australia’s vast expanse and low population density make it an ideal environment for operating long-range, high-endurance drones safely, setting it apart from regions with denser airspace like Europe or the United States.

Ehrlich said Australia’s regulatory framework for conducting drone missions is relatively permissive, allowing Australia to be a leader in the global industry.

“Australia is, as everyone knows, a very large place, which is largely sparsely populated and that means it’s quite easy to operate drones such as ours, which are long range and high endurance safely,” he said.

Despite these advantages, Ehrlich acknowledges challenges related to the speed of approvals for beyond visual line-of-sight operations, a specialised domain where Ninox Robotics excels.

He advocates for greater funding for the regulators to allow for the increased demand and a gradual regulatory evolution, proposing that qualified operators with exemplary records and accepted standard operating procedures have a more streamlined process for integration into civilian airspace.

“I think one of the big things for a country like Australia, that has a chronic issues with risks like bushfires, would be within regulations to be able to allow qualified operators with an excellent safety record, accepted operating procedures and are integrated with emergency management agencies to be swiftly deployed to where they are needed,” he said.

Looking ahead to 2024, Ehrlich revealed plans to introduce enhanced capability through platforms with longer range and endurance, coupled with the ability for vertical takeoff and landing, making drones more capable and resilient in challenging environments.

“Next year we’ll be focused on being able to operate our systems in areas like bushfire management and carbon mapping where we’re doing very long flights over large areas of Australia to monitor live fires or aerially account carbon assets with hyper accurate sensors,” he said.

Additionally, advancements in artificial intelligence, sensors, cameras and communication technologies will enhance the speed and efficiency of data collection.

“We are looking at bringing on some pretty capable platforms, which have vertical takeoff and landing capability, which means they take off like a helicopter, and then turn into a plane when they get to a certain altitude,” he said.

“It means that in very high wind situations, or relatively dangerous environments, it’s far less likely that the machines will take incidental damage and therefore will be able to continually provide excellent aerial intelligence to those who need it.”



This article was developed in collaboration with Ninox Robotics, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.


This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.