Accident opens eyes to future

Raglan company Aeronavics' unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, attracted a lot of attention during the Southern Field Days at Waimumu. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara
Raglan company Aeronavics' unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, attracted a lot of attention during the Southern Field Days at Waimumu. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara
While riding a bike about 15 months ago, spatial analyst Neill Glover was hit by a car and seriously injured. While recovering, he had plenty of time to think about work. That is where his drone came in.

He bought a SkyJib-X4 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), from Aeronavics, of Raglan, and started Geo and Spatial Information Systems Ltd about three weeks ago.

''I prefer to call them UAVs or rotary robotics because the word `drone' had spying and military connotations,'' Mr Glover said.

He learned how to use the drone, added some features, and now offers a farm mapping, photogrammetry (the science of taking measurements from photographs) service and egg and bird-nest counting.

He said the UAV took images in much finer detail than planes or satellites. While he keeps the UAV to a maximum height of about 400ft (low-flying aircraft are not allowed to go below 500ft), it can detect a piece of wire on the grass.

As the UAV has a gimbal, it stays upright in reasonably windy conditions. It can travel up to about 45kmh and can fly 3km to 4km away, although he prefers to operate it within sight.

The UAV has an infra-red camera and may be used to find faults on pylons or wind turbines. The infra-red system could be used for search and rescue, to pick up a missing or injured person's body heat.

''There are huge area of untapped potential,'' he said.

- by Yvonne O'Hara