Flying drones in Sydney: building aeronautical literacy

By Dr Tay Koo, Dr Mary Nguyen, and Dr Emily Chandler


Drones have infinite uses – recreation, photography, farming, even saving lives. But a lack of aeronautical literacy can limit the use of drones in society. Aeronautical literacy is the ability to interpret weather patterns, navigational aids and nautical terminology/symbols, as well as understanding drones’ capabilities and limits. Aeronautical Visual Terminal Charts (or VTCs) are used by commercial and drone pilots to understand rules and safety regulations. Without training and study, VTCs can be difficult to interpret and understand, especially for non-pilot students and the public. To tackle this, Dr Tay Koo and A/Prof. Brett Molesworth wanted to develop an engaging video to explain VTCs and make aeronautical information more accessible to UNSW staff, students and the wider public. 

In collaboration with PVCESE Educational Delivery Solutions and Immersive teams (Mary Nguyen and Sherry Lu), Brett Molesworth (an active pilot with human factors expertise) and Matt Dunn (an experienced commercial drone operator and Scientia Ph.D. candidate), Tay Koo developed a 3D model to better visualise the 2D VTC chart and airspace boundaries. The work was sponsored by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) through the competitive Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Safety Sponsorship Grant. 

The video makes aeronautical information much easier for the public to understand. This can shape commercial and recreational drone operators’ attitudes about safety rules, increasing support and compliance. Student feedback has shown that the 3D video demonstrably improved their understanding of the importance of drone safety rules.

In the future, the on-going development of the 3D platform can be used to help students apply critical thinking, to question and understand why the rules exist and produce similar public engagement videos for tourism/recreational sites like national parks, beaches, and sporting areas. 



To find out more about sustainable aviation management and exciting opportunities, please contact Tay Koo or visit UNSW Aviation homepage and UNSW Aviation on Facebook.

To partner with an Educational Solutions Developer and draw on a wealth of pedagogical and technological expertise, contact Educational Delivery Services using the EDS consultation form.



Tay Koo

Dr Tay Koo has an academic background in geography and economics with emphasis on sustainable aviation and travel management. His research interest involves the study of aviation consumers, air route development and operational applications of small platform remotely piloted aircraft systems (drone) technology for sustainable land and sea management.

Mary Nguyen

Dr Mary Nguyen is an Education Solutions Developer in Educational Delivery Solutions, PVCESE. She holds a PhD in Biotechnology and has over four years' experience teaching STEM.


Dr Emily Chandler

Dr Emily Chandler is an Education Solutions Developer in Educational Delivery Solutions, PVCESE. She holds a PhD in Media, Film and Theatre and is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is passionate about accessibility and equity.