UAV usefulness increasing
Widespread and increasing concern is being expressed at the rapid proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, popularly called drones). This concern is based on the fact that such aircraft are readily available to anybody with the purchase price, and no record or registration is required.
Last year the CAA promulgated new regulations curbing most possible abuses, but there is still no way of tracking down people who breach the regulations when flying the aircraft. Local authorities all over the country have also passed bylaws setting out the areas where drones may be flown, but information relating to these areas is proving difficult for would-be drone operators to find.
Many large commercial organisations overseas are recognising the potential for drones to be used for operations such as aerial photography and the delivery of goods, and surveyors are finding them to be useful in drawing up maps of undeveloped land.
While most drones in New Zealand are used for recreational purposes, the forestry industry has recognised them as useful business tools. Such has been the interest among forestry managers and contractors that Interpine of Rotorua, a large company with many divisions, has seen a business opportunity.
Interpine has set up a team within its operations which is geared to introducing forestry companies to UAVs and their rather complex technology. The team includes client advice on the purchase of the most suitable UAV for their purposes and also training the clients’ employees on the safest and most satisfactory way to fly them as well as regulatory aspects.
Under the leadership of its general manager, David Herries, Interpine has been involved with UAVs for some years, even before the courses for people on the forestry industry were initiated. This included demonstrating to the Rural Fire Service (RFS) the essential information the UAVs can supply about scrub and forest fires which would otherwise be unobtainable.
An example of this is the viewing of fires with a thermal imaging camera which can see through thick smoke to assist assessments on not only the intensity of a fire but also the direction in which it is moving.
Interpine’s service for the RFS has resulted in the company now being the first to be certified under CAA rule part 102 to fly UAVs at night, essential to the monitoring of a rural fire.
For the forestry industry, Interpine has put together a package which includes a Phantom quadcopter carrying a high resolution camera, and Ipod monitor, spare batteries, spare rotor blades and a backpack. Clients then enrol in a course conducted jointly by Interpine and Massey University’s School of Aviation. The hands-on training is conducted at the Te Ohomai School of Forestry in Rotorua.
David Herries sees a significant future for UAVs in the forestry industry and says this would occur at lower levels when the machine would be used purely for inspection purposes. However, over time he sees UAVs becoming an important management tool for his industry, not only inspecting tree growth and health but also in harvesting operations.
- Report by Peter Owens, photography supplied.
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