Government releases tender for enforcement drones

Australia’s heavy vehicle regulatory body is looking to the skies for answers on how to track down “high-risk” vehicles on our roads.

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William Stopford
Journalist

Truck drivers could soon be monitored by drones on Australian roads.

The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator has put out a tender for a trial of a drone that can detect number plates.

The trial will involve two trailer-mounted cameras, two vehicle-mounted cameras and one drone camera, all of which will use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology.

They’ll operate across the regulatory body’s Southern Operations region, which includes the ACT, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.

The cameras will be rolled out by mid-2021 for an initial trial period of three months.

The drone camera is intended for use in identifying “high-risk” vehicles approaching heavy vehicle enforcement sites in remote locations.

High-risk heavy vehicles can include heavy vehicles with oversize or over-mass loads approaching infrastructure that can’t support them, for example bridges with weight limits and low overpasses.

They also include dangerous goods vehicles driving through tunnels and vulnerable areas.

The tender follows another one from the regulator earlier this year, also calling for fixed, mobile and drone-mounted cameras with ANPR technology.

The NHVR wants these cameras to use optical character recognition to identify vehicles and determine if they’re heavy or light vehicles and, if heavy vehicles, determine whether it’s a high-risk vehicle, operator or load.

The regulator wants this mobile technology to interface with the regulator’s existing fixed camera network, which monitors cross-border journeys and looks out for unsafe vehicles.

Portable ANPR cameras would be towed into a position and kept there for a period of a few weeks, similar to the Queensland Police Service’s new mobile phone cameras.

The NHVR, headquartered in Queensland, is looking for a company that has provided ANPR technology to existing enforcement agencies in Australia.

ANPR technology is used throughout the country in fixed and mobile traffic cameras.

While drones are being increasingly used for police enforcement, there’s been no widespread enforcement activity using drones with ANPR technology.

The Queensland Minister for Police and Corrective Services last year confirmed the Queensland Police Service would use drone-mounted night-vision cameras to catch hoons.


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