This remote-controlled drone has dozens of applications and
uses in agriculture, as the Gardyne family are finding out.
They are trialling the drone as a farming tool on their
Otama farm. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara.
Drones will be the next big innovation in farm work, Mark
Mark (13) has been exploring the use of a six-propeller
hexagonal drone on his parents' Neil and Philippa's 466ha
sheep, beef and cropping property at Otama since July as part
of a Beef and Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) trial.
Mr Gardyne imported the drone from Mexico after seeing their
effectiveness on televised overseas war footage and he and
Mark have been working with BLNZ and AbacusBio, of Dunedin,
to collect data and establish the drone's effectiveness as a
''We are looking at improved efficiency and safety and
reducing our carbon footprint,'' Mr Gardyne said. The drone
plus spare parts cost him $4000.
''We think it will provide about $15,000 in savings per
annum, and another $35,000 added value by allowing us to make
much better [on-farm] management decisions,'' he said.
It provided greater efficiencies when monitoring stock, by
reducing the need to travel. He left the operation of the
drone to his son, as Mark was far more adept at dealing with
computers than he was.
''We estimate it has about 40 applications,'' Mark said.
''I believe it is as big for agriculture as the mobile phone
Mark Gardyne (13), of Otama, is working with his father
Neil, to trial a drone to assess its effectiveness as a
farming tool. They are working with Beef and Lamb New
Zealand and AbacusBio, of Dunedin.
Mark learned how to operate the drone in less than an
hour, had only crashed it once and had given demonstrations for
BLNZ and at his school. The drone carries several sensors and a
camera, and can either be directed by remote control or
programmed to automatically fly to certain points on the farm
to perform ''missions'' such as monitoring stock.
It flies in a similar manner to a helicopter, and the camera
sends images back to the operator's laptop or smartphone
either in real time or for later playback. Mark wears goggles
that allow him to see exactly what the drone is seeing in
Downloadable software is available and they are co-ordinating
the programs they want, to tailor the drone to meet their
Using the drone saves Mr and Mrs Gardyne considerable time
when checking on stock, fences or water troughs.
If they see a problem on screen, they can then drive out to
''Checking the water troughs takes an hour-and-a-half job on
the four-wheeler and it takes 10 minutes by drone,'' Mr
They use it to monitor stock during calving or lambing, or
for cast sheep, or check if there is sufficient feed in a
The drone's infrared camera provides thermal imaging.
One software program takes an image of a flock or herd in a
paddock and then counts the number of stock and sends a
The farmer can immediately see if some are missing, rather
than finding out during the next muster. A future application
will see it identifying porina, grass grub and aphid
''The Holy Grail is ... dry-matter measuring and we are well
on the way to get that,'' he said. ''It will be able to go
from paddock to paddock to estimate the dry matter and will
help us make proactive rather than reactive decisions.''
Mr Gardyne said there would need to be some operational
rules, to deal with, for instance, crossing property
boundaries and privacy concerns.
Top speed: 100kmh.
Range: 3km by remote control or further on
Flying height: Can reach 1000m (3000ft).