Drone Technologies Conducts First BLOS Flight in New Zealand

By AUVSI News posted 17-03-2017 15:50


On February 24, Drone Technologies Ltd, a company based in Taranaki, New Zealand, completed the first beyond line of sight (BLOS) UAS flight in New Zealand, as the company used an Aerosonde fixed wing UAS to survey a 30-kilometer section of Transpower’s transmission lines and towers in the Rimutaka Ranges.

During the mission, the UAS captured close-up footage of towers and lines, as it hovered close to the structures. The 25kg UAS with a 3.5m wingspan covered 100kmh during the 54-minute flight.

According to Ben Plummer, Drone Technologies’ CEO, this flight, and UAS technology in general, will go a long way in future BLOS flights that can be conducted around the country.

“It is (a) cost-comparable solution to manned aircraft and eliminates a risk because it doesn't require someone to physically be there to navigate,” Plummer says via the Taranaki Daily News.

“This opens up the door for other uses, such as delivering parcels and medical supplies to remote locations or communities in crisis.”

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority made the flight possible, thanks to its new ‘beyond line of sight framework,’ which has opened the country’s airspace for UAS under strict conditions.

The flight, which was controlled by a team on the ground, was carried out the same way a manned flight would be carried out, as permission had to be gained to conduct the flight at the specific time, the flight had to have a flight plan, and the pilots had to be trained thoroughly beforehand.

Transpower will use the data collected from the flights to determine if they will use UAS on a regular basis to monitor their transmission lines and equipment.

According to Stephen Jay, the company’s general manager of grid development, the flight was very helpful.

“These trials have shown us that a combination of drone and helicopter flights can help us achieve considerable efficiencies in how we inspect and maintain the National Grid,” Jays says.

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Photo Courtesy of Drone Technologies NZ Ltd

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