Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (drones) Mid-Air Collision Study

Last day of July, three and a half hours til August (at the time I started typing) and I realise I haven’t written anything all month…

DJI Phantom

Unmanned aircraft is a subject that I thought I had moved on from but this report popped up in my inbox this evening…only a couple of days after I spoke with a couple of clowns flying a large drone over the Chateau Golf Course in Whakapapa Village. They pleaded ignorance of both National Park and Civil Aviation Agency legislation relating to flying drones in or over the Park but really? You don’t buy and operate a big drone like that without knowing the law.

That law is quite simple:

It is illegal to land, take-off or hover an aircraft in, from or over Tongariro National Park. A drone (of any class or size) is regarded as an aircraft. Any exceptions must have prior formal written approval from the Department of Conservation.

The land-owner’s prior permission is required before a drone can be flown over private land; or the permission from the mandated controlling authority for public land e.g. the local council or, for the Park, the Department of Conservation.

 In addition, rescue helicopters can and do enter the Park at any time of day or night, from any direction. Even on a clear day, the setting sun can obscure vision to such an extent that a pilot may not see a drone in time to avoid it.

airfield 4km

CAA Rules also prohibit the operation of drones within 4km of an airfield, that is 4km from the closest boundary of an airfield. For the Chateau Airfield (by the intersection of SH47 and SH48), that 4km limit takes you to just above the bridge over the Whakapapanui Stream. It means that you can’t fly your drone:

at Discovery Lodge (which has its own heli-pad in any case) or

at the camp site at Mangahuia, further along SH47 towards National Park Village, or

over Mahuia Rapids just along 47 in the other direction or

on the Tawhai Falls or Mound Walk trails that come off SH48.

Those who say that a small drone wouldn’t do any significant damage to an manned aircraft should read the report that I received this evening. You can find the report, Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (drones) Mid-Air Collision Study, here.

It is sobering reading: even a small (think Toyworld) drone can cause considerable damage to a light aircraft or helicopter, particularly the windscreen and tail rotor. Any components ingested into the engine may also cause unneeded excitement for the pilot and passengers of that manned aircraft.

the bits that hurt
The bits that hurt…

In a way this report is quite gratifying as it supports the work that I did for the Air and Space Interoperability Council and subsequently NATO on the hazards of small unmanned aircraft sharing operational airspace with manned aircraft.

If you own a drone of any sort in New Zealand, you do need to read Part 101 and Part 102 of the Civil Aviation Agency Rules, and the note RPAS, UAV, UAS, Drones and Model Aircraft. You won’t, of course, because you think you have an ultimate right to do whatever you like in the Park…that’s alright…but don’t be surprised if guides or Rangers just snap your pic and send it directly to CAA for action…

You might think it’s great your drone will follow your phone as you rip down the slopes at Whakapapa or Turoa…on a ‘good’ day in winter, there may be a half dozen or more rescue helicopter flights on to the ski fields or around the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, often in restricted visibility: that’s hard enough without the pilot having to worry about some goon operating their drone illegally.

Similarly, around the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, no one wants to be subjected to mosquito-like totally annoying whine of your drone…nor should should pilots have to look out for them as they approach for a rescue – when you’re too dumb to hear the helo coming in and dump your drone…

What we really need are a few good prosecutions to drive this message home BEFORE we have an accident…

Aviation Related Concern

To report an aviation safety or security concern, that may include complaints, or allegations of suspected breaches of civil aviation legislation, call: 0508 4SAFETY (0508 472 338) available office hours (voicemail after hours), or email:

Pictures, video, rego numbers are useful information to back up your complaint and hopefully lead to a successful prosecution. Ignorance of the law is no excuse…

The first law of aircraft…

…acquisition is that it must look good and thus Euro Hawk stumbles at even that first hurdle…

I subscribe to a digest of UAS-related issues from the Small Wars Council – often it lies dormant for weeks but this evening it delivered this corker item from Germany…an absolute how-NOT-to of aircraft (yes, unmanned aircraft ARE aircraft too) acquisition…

…because, of course, the second rule of aircraft acquisition is that it must actually meet a user requirement. One of the great idiocies of UA in the last decade is that people who really should know better are regarding UA as capabilities in their own right. The sad unfortunate and inconvenient truth is that UA are just like any other aircraft in that they provide a means to carry a capability through the air to (hopefully) create or apply specific effects. Those effects will probably fall into one of three functional groups of air power: Sense, Move, or Engage.

Some way down the acquisition path, there will be a decision point where the nature of the aircraft may need to be considered in terms of whether it should have seats or not. This decision should be based on a number of factors driven to a large extent by the environment in which it is expected that the aircraft will operate. And this is where the German methodology for Euro Hawk (assuming that such exists) unravels…surely not even the most zealous proponent on unmanned aircraft would realistically accept for a second that a large UA like Euro Hawk was ever going to be allowed to operate in the congested skies over western Europe?

The ‘sense and avoid’ issue is a bit of a red herring…the problem is not those airspace users that play by the rules: it is those that do not who pose the greater threat – unfortunately, as in so many things, it is the actions of the few that shape the rules that govern the many. The airways would most probably be far safer if all large aircraft flew automated courses, controlled by a central skynet air traffic control. Human error is one of the more common causes of air incidents and thus a higher, not lesser, degree of automation in the airways would promote flight safety. The Sully Sullenberger’s of the world aside, if a large modern aircraft suffers a major systems failure, the skill and experience of the crew is only so capable of countering that failure. The main benefit of a flight crew aboard an aircraft in distress is their real-time situational awareness that is denied to a emote operator.

But, getting back to the Germans…half a billion euros down the gurgler for a capability that it not only cannot operate at home but that it probably should not have ever thought it could so until UA are integrated into civilian airspace, something that is unlikely to occur on a large scale any time soon. But, airworthiness and compliance issues with Northrop-Grumman aside (get better contract writers), this investment need not be wasted. There is nothing stopping Germany entering into an agreement with one of more other nations for its Euro Hawks, if ever delivered, or a replacement UA (if they really really must have a UA in this class and not a more flexible manned ISR platform), to operate in someone else’s less congested airspace to maintain air and ground crew proficiency and possibly contribute to other outputs. There has been discussion that UK Reapers (which also cannot fly in western European airspace) may be based in Kenya to do exactly this. If Kenya does not appeal, why not Australia or New Zealand…?


UA are no  more capabilities in their own right than manned aircraft. Aircraft are a means of getting a capability to a specific point to create a  desired effect, and (ideally) back again.

Don’t give up the dream but definitely stop stoking the fire for premature integration of UAs into congested civilian airspace – just stoke the embers for now.

Read the contract before you sign it – if you don’t like it, then bin it (before you commit half a billion euros) and wait or identify a replacement supplier. Northrop Grumman is not the only player in this game.

The age of manned aircraft is not over yet.

Think outside the square – does your large expensive UA really have to be based at home?

UAVs: hit or miss?

out-00061Terrifying video captures moment German drone missed Afghan plane carrying 100 passengers by just two metre | Mail Online.

Pitiful attempts at contemporary journalism like this get right up my nose! Not only is it poor practice to take an incident that occurred nine years ago and portray it in such a manner that it appears to be a recent occurrence, it is even worse to do it on a topic that a. the ‘journalist’ in question clearly know nothing about; and b. in such a manner that all the ignorati out there that take the internet as gospel will break out their pitchforks and torches.

In all fairness, I may be just a little sensitive with regard to the time issue as I have just completed a university marking marathon in which I have been disappointed at the number of students that think that they can take an incident in one point in time and link it casually to another event some time later.

It’s also a beef I have with Max Boot’s latest book Invisible Armies where he takes a stance that a coercive approach to quelling irregularity, insurgency and other signs of unrest amongst ‘the people’ is counter-productive and ultimately leads to the downfall of the coercing regime. I take issue with this because

a. I think that historically, the coercive approach has actually been more successful than more populist forms of maintaining peace and order;

b. it is a big leap to link the downfall of a regime to the sacking of a city or decimation of a population some centuries (yes, centuries, not decades) before’ and

c. there are just as many indications that ‘peace, love and we’ll-build-you-a-schoolhouse’ approach to pacification is not that successful, regardless of its current contemporary favour.

The constructive advice I give to students in my markers comments is to to construct a timeline of events that MAY be relevant to their argument and then to examine that timeline to see if they can still draw a causal line between an event and the outcome that they wish to link it to e.g. did coalition application of Warden’s Rings theory, specifically to Iraqi leadership, in the 1991 Gulf War air campaign directly lead to the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2004? It almost sounds plausible until out into the context of time…Ms Becky Evans of the Daily Mail – and Max Boot, if you’re reading this – might wish to take note…

UAS operations are no more or no less safe than manned aircraft operations so long as the EXISTING rules are followed. In the case cited above by the Daily Mail, a combination of procedural air traffic control and air crew issues lead to the situation of the near miss, an actual collision being avoided by the crew of the UAS. The involvement of a UAS in a flight safety event does not automatically mean that the UAS is at fault. In another popular example of the dangers of UAS, where an Air National Guard C-130 struck an RG-7 Shadow in Afghanistan, the C-130 was at fault.

The Daily Mail does nothing but stir up ignorance and conceal the issues that do need to be addressed i.e. those of operators, of manned or unmanned systems, that fail to apply the minimum standards for safe operation of aircraft in a specific airspace environment. UAS are small and often fly close to the ground, making them very difficult to detect with time to take evasive action. As a result, airspace management ‘bureaucracy’ like NOTAMs, SPINs, ATOs, etc becomes so much more important for providing the situational awareness required by the operators of manned aircraft: might is only right until it gets to(o) stoopid

‘…with great power comes great responsibility…’ and thus the operators of (more powerful, bigger, faster) manned aircraft have the responsibility to ensure that they deconflict with UAS approved to operate in a  given area of airspace. There is little to be done about the cowboys on either side of the manned/unmanned fence that do not play by the rules e.g. the jet jocks that think that flying in a combat zone means they can zoom and boom wherever they like, or the private contractor that just flips their undeclared Ebay UAS into the sky because everyone knows that ‘…it’s a big-ass sky…’ apart from breeding those elements out of the aviation culture and fostering a sense of air-mindedness amongst anyone that thinks they need to operate an aircraft (with or without seats).

Here is New Zealand, small UAS fly commercially almost every day with the permission and blessing of the Civil Aviation Authority. They fly in and over urban areas, and in controlled airspace. How do they get away with it? Because the operators reviewed the rules, assessed the risk and offered a mitigation philosophy to the CAA. When, and only when, that mitigation philosophy was accepted, they were in business – literally.

The genie of small UAS proliferation is already out of the bottle, and it is unlikely that it will ever get drawn back in – not when camera-equipped UAS can be purchased from any Toys’r’Us – like so many other genies, small UAS are something that we need to get to grips with and the time for that is now…


Throw the pin!!

Our morning routine during the week goes something like wake around 0610, jug on…shower, dress etc…breakfast and a cuppa in front of TV1’s Breakfast show – really the only morning show in town plus it has an onscreen clock for those that need to be out the door by a certain time each morning…

Some issues were discussion this morning that I thought worthy of further comment…

The Gilmore GrenadeAaron-Gilmore-national-6_w452

A couple of weeks back, lowest listed National Party MP, Aaron Gilmore, lipped off at the staff in a bar in Hamner Springs when they refused to serve him. Although he denies it, accounts from staff and others in his party (dobbed by your buds, Aaron!!)  confirm that he threatened to get the Prime Minister to fire the staff member in question. Like, y’know, the PM just sits around like some sort of political Gargamel waiting to smite down any who dare to oppose his lowliest listed MP…

I’d never heard of this clown until the week before when he ‘starred” (not in the positive sense of the word) on Backbenchers, a local political talk-back session that screens every Wednesday night after Strike Back…which is not to say that I am a big fan of Strike Back or anything else derived from Chris Ryan but we have taken a bit of a shine to Elementary which screens just before it…A bit of a shine? Nah, let’s be honest about it – I prefer it over the overhyped pretension of Sherlock and the buffoonery of Robert Downey’s big screen Holmes AND it’s got not only a female Watson as a nice bit of contemporisation but it’s Lucy Liu who could also be described simply as a ‘nice bit’…

Anyway…back to clown boy…the topic for discussion that night was the passage of the same sex marriage act and the National Party representative aka clown boy was clearly unprepared and tried to bluster his way through the discussion – really he should just have had another pint and slid quietly under the table. So, it wasn’t really any surprise when news broken on his antics in Hamner Springs the following week. Since then we’ve all gotten to watch the Aaron Show as he has denied, apologised, denied again…I think it was a caller on Radio Live that suggested that the following night, Gilmore should have fronted at the bar, apologised (sincerely) to everyone and tossed a couple of grand on the bar…

Last night he announced his resignation from Parliament to a big sigh of relief from everyone – who says that the parties can not agree unanimously on anything? – but promising utu (revenge or payback) on ‘those responsible in his final speech today…while we all wait with baited breath to learn the contents of the Gilmore grenade today, my only advice to Clown Boy is “Throw the pin, Aaron!!

Just get on with it now…2727_auckland-convention-centre-bid-skycity

Before the 2011 election the Government announced its plans to create a national convention centre in central Auckland in partnership with Sky Casino – all the usual haters fired up at the time but now that Government has announced details of this project and the specifics of the relationship with the casino. Essentially, the casino will fund the construction of the convention centre – a projected cost around $420 million – in return for concessions to expand its number of pokie machines and gaming tables, and for some guarantee of protection from future anti-gaming legislation.

All the haters are in full cry again now, having squandered the last year and a half in which they could have sought to block the project. I’m not a big fan of gambling but I also don’t think that a few more pokie machines and gaming tables in the centre of Auckland is going to rip the fabric of the space-time continuum, certainly not when these and other forms of gambling continue to flourish across the country. If the Greens and Labour whiny-haters really wanted to do something about this, then instead of wasting the period from the flash of the initial announcements in 2011 to the bang of the confirmations this week, they could/should have:

Come up with their own plan for funding the construction of the convention centre – no-one really seems to think that this is a bad idea – noting the country is kinda broke due to the unforeseen need to rebuild a major city from scratch.

Developed their own comprehensive AND practical plan for reducing access to to gambling systems and machines across the country – including Lotto and the good old TAB.

Realised that there is more to be in opposition than just attacking everything that the Government does – the continual bleating from David Shearer, the ‘leader’ of the Opposition is just irritating – we might as well bring back Winston Peters: at least he’s entertaining and, funnily enough, was canny enough to include an anti-pokie stand in his manifesto for the 2011 election…

Nutty is as nutty does…

Apparently, in a fit of rampant nannystatism, schools are Australia are banning nuts from school lunches to protect those with nut-based allergies…I kid you not!! Is this a clear case of schools abdicating themselves of even more responsibility when, if there ever was something that kids need some education on, it is dealing with potentially lethal conditions like this…wrapping them in nanny state cotton wool will only prepare them LESS for the real world…

And speaking of things in the real world…



An interesting hype piece X-47B UCAS Launches the Next Era of Naval Aviation popped up on the FB feed this morning – and that’s all it is, more X-47 hype.

You can launch a 40 foot container off the end of a US Nimitz-class aircraft carrier so tossing an X-47 off the pointy end of a carrier is not really an achievement in itself. The real achievement and major step ahead for naval aviation will come when an X-47 lands autonomously on the blunt end of an aircraft carrier, catching the ‘3’ wire and all that other good Maverick stuff (will be be equipped for the mandatory post-mission high fives?), as the business of carrier aviation goes on around it – so long as some dodgy Chinese fiend doesn’t pop an electromagnetic pulse just as the UAV commits to landing on the deck – maybe there should be an extra Phalanx under the ramp – just in case…?

Please, don’t get me wrong…I think that the technology going into the X-47 programme is way cool and probbaly heard the next full generational of unmanned aviation but…please…stop with the endless hype…

PS…if you want to have a credible blog site, Navy Live, grow a set and stop moderating your comments…


COA airspace map with Deming removed

How appropriate that the air port inside the Flight Test Center Airspace is Truth or Consequences Airport? Maybe we could have one called Put up of Shut Up?

Inside the drone economy discusses US plans to establish six UAS test flight areas within the continental UAS, and the current battle between the states to acquire one of these potentially lucrative areas. I just wonder, with our relatively clear and open airspace, domestically and over the big blue thing, whether we have lost an opportunity in attracting UAS-related technologies to New Zealand for test flight and other experimental activities…?


Fresh of the presses at Deep Diver Intel as I was typing this…for reasons unknown but bound to be scary, Global Hawk gets a US$555 million reincarnation to 2015…has anyone done any counter-UAS research on the effects of silver bullets, holy water and wooden stakes on aging technologies that just won’t die…?

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above | The Daily Post

Ingenious mouse trap at Unwin Hut

Looking down on a novel and innovative mousetrap in A Department of Conservation hut near Mt Cook during a school trip in 1981…the beer bottle is wrapped in a sock to stop it rolling away and had a chunk of cheese jammed in the opening…the rest is simple physics…

As much as I aspire to always use my own images in these challenges, this time I can’t resist putting in a plug for my mate, Rowland at Hawkeye UAV who has combined cutting-edge geospatial technologies with state of the art small UAS technologies for the ultimate in commercially-useful look-down applications. In addition, this is largely based on Kiwi home-grown innovation and smarts…

This imagery is from a recent task over New Plymouth, New Zealand and over a clearly urban area which gives the lie to the know-it-all doomsayers that state that small UAS can not operate safely over urban areas…

Hawkeye UAV New Plymoutn 2013-1

Hawkeye UAV New Plymouth 2013-2

…don’t forget that this is a 3D image – as you scroll it the perspective and relationships between features on the ground change…

Hawkeye UAV New Plymouth 2013-3

…and all done from Hawkeye’s own AreoHawk UAS…

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above | The Daily Post

Click to view some very cool imagery…even if it is only New Plymouth….

Off to a good start for the Year of the Snake

Latest update in from the lads at Hawkeye UAV…homegrown Kiwi technology in action!!

North Otago, New Zealand

Early in the New Year we travelled to the South Island to undertake a large task in the Waitaki river valley. The task consisted of the hi res survey of multiple wetlands and other sites earmarked for conservation along a 30km section of the valley in the vicinity of Kurow, North Otago. Having driven down from Christchurch we approached Kurow from the North and it was immediately apparent that the Waitaki river was in flood. A quick drive around the area, checking out both the Waitaki and Aviemore Dams confirmed that there was plenty of flow coming down.


After booking ourselves into the mighty Waitaki Hotel we settled into our stay and got on with the planning. With myself and David this time was Drew Gwyer, of Hawkeye UAV Americas, a very experienced aviator doing his “apprenticeship” on the AreoHawk. It was his second day in New Zealand too, so the rapid change from Maine, to Auckland, to Palmerston North and then ultimately Kurow was probably pretty eye opening! We did manage to treat him to some nice weather down there which was undoubtedly a good contrast to the snowstorms at home.


Damn hard to beat a North Otago pub!!!!

On the morning of the second day, complete with our bountiful packed lunches prepared by the tavern staff, we headed out early to begin flight ops. We had in the region of 12 tasks to conduct over the coming days, some of quite significant size (7-8km²). We managed a full day of flying with three full sorties and a good start to our overall programme of work.


We received reassuring confirmation that our published NOTAM (Notice To Airmen) had been observed by the local helicopter operators too, who checked in with us and maintained safe clearance via radio communications during their operations alongside us in the valley.

The next day started out well but unfortunately was soon blowing 50-70km/h of wind and while we did launch and test the conditions, it was plain that it wasn’t ideal for accurate data capture.


Once we had resumed flying ops we began making good progress along the valley and through our tasks. We operated from a variety of sites, most of them adjacent to the river or on farmland nearby, having been up and down on the first day and arranged access with the property owners.



During the 6 days down in the Waitaki we lost a couple of days to weather, both from wind and rain and that did give us a chance to visit Oamaru and Moeraki and also to further Drew’s exposure to the great kiwi flat white. We did finish the job successfully despite the weather hiccups and bade farewell to the Waitaki Hotel and its friendly staff, heading back north to Christchurch for our return home with a hard drive full of raw imagery for processing.

Reno, Nevada USA

Later in January Hawkeye UAV travelled to the USA to put on a series of demonstration flights in conjunction with Hawkeye UAV Americas (HUA), at Reno-Stead airfield in Nevada. This was in part sponsored by the good folks from the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority who have a state sponsored initiative to promote the growth of the UAV industry at Reno-Stead, which is also home to the Reno Air Races. To say they were warmly accommodating doesn’t really do them service, they were fantastic. On the threshold of the lesser used cross vector runway at Reno-Stead they had set up a luxurious tent complete with gas heating, coffee and catering to keep us all in great style. What we also had but hadn’t bargained for was a lot of snow on the ground! Being mid-Winter Nevada did not disappoint, providing mind-focussing temperatures a couple of degrees above freezing. I must also add that being accommodated at a Casino-Hotel was a bit of an experience for us kiwis who can count the total number of real casinos at home on just one hand.


The plan for the week here was to demonstrate the setup, flight and capability of the AreoHawk system to a steady stream of VIP guests from a range of interested industries, culminating with a media day on the final day. With the help of HUA we got underway on the first day, and after a coffee or two and warming our hands we launched the Hawk into the crisp but sunny skies of Reno-Stead, which rests at 5,000’ above sea level.


We had an allocated “flight box” for our use from surface to 700’ AGL north and east of our location and proceeded to survey it, snow and all. Photographing snowy ground, especially from altitude, was going to present an interesting proposition and not something we had undertaken before, so we were curious to see just how well it would turn out, both the imagery and the point cloud.

Orthomosaic result from Reno-Stead demo flights

As it turned out, the results were very good. Here’s a snapshot of the orthomosaic generated. Note the tent and vehicles in the bottom right corner.

In all, we flew the Hawk four times in three days, with lots of news media and VIPs in attendance for the final flight. This one, like the preceding flights went completely without a hitch, and the interviews and questions afterwards lasted longer than the duration of the sortie!


Links to the corresponding media articles and news footage is here on our facebook page.

While at Reno-Stead we were also very fortunate to see some very cool aircraft, including a MiG-21 that did circuits right next to us, and we got to visit Aviation Classics, an amazing repair and custom refit shop.



Surveyors leading the way with UAV technology

The first UAV operator’s course of the year was run from the end of January through to mid-February. On the course were two staff from Beasley and Burgess Surveyors Ltd of Northland, and two from Juffermans Surveyors Ltd, of New Plymouth. Both companies have purchased AreoHawk systems and their operators have now completed training ready to undertake survey work with their new gear.

Hawkeye UAV Ltd’s commitment to ongoing support and working relationships will see us maintaining a mentoring and flight supervision role, plus providing advice and assistance with planning.

Kevin O’Connor and Associates Ltd of Palmerston North are the third North Island survey firm to purchase an AreoHawk system and their training is about to begin in the coming weeks.

Engagement with survey companies is a great step forward for us. Each one is in a distinct area or province and allows greater reach of our UAV technology into these areas. Surveyors have existing client bases that will be well-served by the AreoHawk system and will also now be able to control their own aerial photography and 3D terrain requirements of all sizes, without the need for outsourcing. Additionally, all their data will be processed at home in New Zealand rather than offshore.

More operations from Birlik Harita in Turkey

These photos are from our Turkish partners during a Cadastral Survey along the long and narrow Datça Peninsula. Datça has nine villages scattered along the peninsula. These are; Cumalı, Emecik, Hızırşah, Karaköy, Kızlan, Mesudiye, Sındı, Yakaköy, Yazıköy. The local villagers were intrigued with the UAV and spent all day with the crew from Birlik Harita.






New Zealand domestic services work

The following photograph is of Gareth in the Kawekas while on a Department of Conservation task monitoring pinus contorta. For this we conducted both RGB and NIR (Near Infra-Red) orthophotography at 4cm resolution. The area where the photo was taken is the only clear area of significance within the regulated flight range. This did cause some added thought to how to launch and recover the UAV, however that is part and parcel of the job. The start of the year has been mostly orthophotos, some with NIR and some without. We certainly welcome any task and hope to make the most of the great summer here in New Zealand at the moment.

!cid_0f4d4ccb90ce9d69500d2231273f05b4Wondering when this new-fangled technology will be gracing out skies more…? One really has to wonder why an ISR-short Government isn’t latching on to this…

Hawks Over Rangiora

There I was…cleaning out the hard drive…when I found this…a draft post from almost two years ago…some imagery that the lads at Hawkeye UAV shared with me after flying tasks in the direct aftermath of the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake…

I’m not sure why I never posted this…possibly too many authoring tools and it was just overlooked…this mission was flown using Kahu as the team started its journey back north. Although Hawkeye’s capabilities have increased geometrically in pretty much every way (aircraft, sensors, software, etc) in the intervening two years, this series still is till a good look at the sequence of a mission from…


…initial mission planning in the flight control software…each of the dots on the map above represents the point where an image will be taken from the aircraft, taking into account factors like wind and light.

The next five images are part of the imagery set collected during the missions

181793_1602842074098_1327477019_31303247_3754878_n   181793_1602842234102_1327477019_31303251_3097191_n 181793_1602842194101_1327477019_31303250_2639623_n 181793_1602842154100_1327477019_31303249_8104646_n 181793_1602842114099_1327477019_31303248_4727725_n


These are then combined into a mosaic…in this case a thermal image of the town from a night mission because silly me has misplaced the daylight mosaic shot…


…and also the image of the 3D model of the town created from these 2D images are photogrammetric processing (some interesting work at Otago University on this process)…but here’s a short clip of some 3D imagery from another task…


Pretty cool…more so when it’s all homegrown Kiwi technology and ingenuity…

Like a fine wine, a good year…

Just in from Hawkeye UAV, their end of 2012 newsletter…

2012 is nearly at the close and since the last update there has been much to report.

Our new operators, in Turkey and South Africa respectively, have been busy flying sorties with their new AreoHawks.  Quickly settling into their work and undertaking a range of tasks and a lot of flying.  Some sample data from a Middle East survey task is shown here.


One of our AreoHawk airframes is currently being used as a testbed aircraft for the development of hydrogen fuel cell technology.  The Defence Technology Agency (DTA) here in New Zealand is undertaking a project to perform airborne testing and a capability study in conjunction with the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), who are sponsoring the project.  The AreoHawk has been selected as it is considered a robust and stable platform, with the ability to support modification and more weight.  The fuel cell technology is expected to push flight endurance out to 5-6 hours!

Serious game changer for Class I UAVs which have been traditionally limited by short legs…all of a sudden a CLASS I UAS could have a 200 km operating radius and still have a two hour loiter time over its objective…

Another AreoHawk airframe has been on display as part of an exhibition at The National Library of New Zealand, in Wellington.  Part of the “Big Data / Changing Place” programme, our aircraft represents a Kiwi company that is contributing big things in the world of data.  The exhibition and events run until the end of Aril 2013.

If you’re in the capital, GO AND SEE IT!!

Also here at home we have good news on covering the domestic services market.  Hawkeye UAV is forming partnerships with 3 established North Island survey companies.  Within their distinct regions these agencies will operate the AreoHawk, and grow the UAV survey capability around New Zealand with ongoing support from Hawkeye.  This collaborative arrangement will greatly help all parties and ease the pressure from the influx of domestic services work that keeps building month to month.

Amongst the tasks mentioned above are extended contracts for road building and engineering survey, conservation work and an extensive government facilities management portfolio (more on this next year).

We are making successful inroads into the development of both infra-red and multispectral data acquisition capabilities.  These will add some powerful tools to our arsenal and once again cement UAV technology as a very viable alternative to traditional manned aerial photography.

We have been mentioned in dispatches lately with a good news piece about our development of industry training packages for the safe and legal operation of UAV technology.  Published by the Aviation, Tourism and Travel Training Organisation (ATTTO) this article reaffirms our safety-first and procedural approach, and recognises Hawkeye UAV Ltd.’s commitment to working as an operator certified by the Civil Aviation Authority.

ATTTO article

Long overdue and about time…this will both make the skies safer by requiring operators to be trained AND certified AND accountable.

A new and exciting development for us that has only occurred in the past few days is the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)certification of the AreoHawk for commercial use by our partner, AeroMetrex.  They are now the first AreoHawk UAV operator in Australia.  AeroMetrex, with the support of Hawkeye have been working very diligently with CASA for the better part of 2012 to obtain this endorsement. They promptly capped off this great news by announcing the sale of six AreoHawk systems within Australia.

CASA cert

Look for our write-up in the January edition of Coordinates magazine in the article “UAV/UAS – Potential and Challenges.”  Hawkeye has made a contribution on how we see the development of the technology and any hurdles to overcome.

Very way cool and great to see the Kiwi influence on the other side of the ditch…

Coming up early next year is a road trip of tasks and demonstrations in the western United States.  We have a succession of jobs to undertake that have been generated by the good work of Hawkeye UAV Americas (HUA).  There are some really interesting things on the list here, including the mapping of a whole town.  We hope to have some interesting shots and even more interesting stories to tell on our return.


Also in January Hawkeye will be running another UAV operators course for up to six new students.  These students, on completion of their conversion are likely to receive some serious on the job training as they are employed to assist with New Zealand tasks.  The summer months should permit plenty of flying and see each gain a lot of experience in a relatively short timeframe.



Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Eye in the Sky

Over the last few months, I have been keeping reporting developments in a local company gearing up to conduct commercial UAV/UAS operations (depending which school you went to) domestically and offshore. Just a quick note to report that all is still on track, and that the website has been further developed. Of particular interest to ISR types may be the two publications now available that offer more information on both operations and capability.

On the modelling front, a tres way cool find last night, reported via Paper Modelers, and available for download from the designer’s site in Russia…you do have to register to download but even with a dial-up download of the two 43Mb files, the wait is well worth it – can’t see Revell or Trumpeter knocking out something as cool as this any time soon…

That’s the update for today – it’s been a long day as we shot over to Turangi to catch up with the twins while Carmen had  a job interview; after we got home and survived the heat of the day (is this summer finally?), we decided to attack the jungle that had erupted around the spa deck – very stiff back now – had a late dinner of corn on the cob and rezapped lasagne before watching Will Smith in Seven Pounds: very heavy duty but highly recommended…