Commercial Drones PilotsDrone company touches down at Timaru location

November 23, 2021by helo-10
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Aeronavics operations manager Colin Roycroft expects drones to be “everywhere” in 10 years.

Valentina Bellomo/Stuff

Aeronavics operations manager Colin Roycroft expects drones to be “everywhere” in 10 years.

An industrial aerial robotics company that has shifted from Hamilton to Timaru intends to start manufacturing farm drones in 2022.

“The plan is we will grow, developing a few projects to big volumes linked to agriculture and pest control,” Aeronavics operations manager Colin Roycroft said.

The company has shifted into premises at Washdyke alongside biotech company South Pacific Sera (SPS) in recent weeks, the connection being Aeronavics chairman and shareholder, John Rolleston, operated SPS with his brother William Rolleston.

“Initially we’ll target farmers,” Roycroft said.

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“Some of the work that farmers do can risk lives, and we can ease the load.”

A drone could be used to monitor and gather data over remote and dangerous terrain, Roycroft said, as well as monitor soil and water quality, check stock and perform other on-farm environmental tasks.

“We’re still in the design stage. They’re not toys, they’re industrial and commercial products.”

A new drone for agricultural use is being developed for release next year.

Valentina Bellomo/Stuff

A new drone for agricultural use is being developed for release next year.

He said the drones carried onboard Linux computers and could handle challenging weather conditions.

Roycroft predicted there would be drones “everywhere” within 10 years with the immediate challenge being to ensure the airspace was safe.

Aeronavics was consulting closely with Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over airspace, he said.

The company, along with Swoop Aero, Envico Enterprises, Kea Aeropspace and Wisk NZ, has been taking part in an airspace integrated trial programme to accelerate drones’ integration into New Zealand’s aviation system.

At present CAA rules state that drones can only be flown within line of sight, around 500 metres, depending on terrain, no higher than 120m and could not be flown within 4 kilometres of an airfield or airport. Take-off weight could not exceed more than 25 kilograms and the drones were not to be flown over people or properties without permission.

To fly outside those requirements required training.

“We’re expecting farmers to be pilots,” Roycroft said.

“We’ll offer our services or a service training organisation to take them through that.”

An Aeronavics’ test drone in flight at Washdyke.

Valentina Bellomo/Stuff

An Aeronavics’ test drone in flight at Washdyke.

Linda Baulk and Rob Brouwer founded Aeronavics in 2010 building a clientele around the world with the company’s drones being used in the security, public services, mining and agricultural sectors. John Rolleston joined them as a director in 2019.

Aeronavics was the first company to fly drones at Mt Everest base camp and in Hollywood films and documentaries with approval from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the US.



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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.

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