30 Sep 2018

NZ firm to introduce new drone-detection gadget for light aircraft

12:31 pm on 30 September 2018

A new drone detection device for light aircraft is on the horizon, an aviation firm says.

Aeronavics Drone with navigation lights

Photo: Supplied / Aeronavics

Oceania Aviation, an Auckland-based repair and maintenance company, is working with a Saudi based company to bring the technology to New Zealand.

The Civil Aviation Authority New Zealand (CAA) has welcomed the idea, as it did with any initiatives designed to make aviation safe and prevent accidents.

Oceania international business manager Glenn Rawnsley, an aircraft engineer, said the rapid increase in drone use was leading to safety concerns among pilots.

The CAA has said that an independently commissioned survey showed there were now around 280,000 Kiwis who either owned a drone or had flown one.

But the aviation regulator was more worried about the 200,000 overseas tourists who brought their drones on holiday with them here each year.

The CAA is currently consulting with the industry and residents on an application to test large, commercial scale drones near Alexandra.

The application, which involves securing air space for exclusive use by the drone company, has concerned local pilots for safety reasons.

Mr Rawnsley said the detection device was the size of a cell phone, and worked by warning a pilot there was a drone within 3.5 kilometres of their position.

He said unlike the collision-avoidance transmitting system commercial aircraft used, the drone detection device picked up "spikes" in the radio frequencies, indicating a drone.

"It's quite a simple system.

"If they're flying in those areas, you take the drone detector and it just sticks on to your dashboard, and it'll cover that aircraft in that area.

"I mean if a drone hits an aircraft, it can be fatal, even though they're only small."

Mr Rawnsley has been in the aviation industry almost 30 years, and has seen significant change in that time.

Drones were the future in aviation, he said.

The detection unit, which would cost about $5000, is in the final stages of testing before it would be released in New Zealand.

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