Human drone falls into new line of work at the biggest private aviation company in New Zealand

When Colin Aitchison started as a photographer, he was essentially a human drone. Jumping out of a plane with a heavy professional camera attached to his head, his job was to capture the thrills of skydiving, completing close to 9000 free falls.

Colin is now a member of the biggest private aviation company in New Zealand, GCH Aviation Group, which just opened a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) division. Aitchison moved to Blenheim in part to offer his multi-spectral imaging techniques to people growing grapes. It was used to help diagnose stressors in “high-value crops”, sometimes weeks before the human eye could spot them.

Their office is full of the latest and greatest gadgets; their newest drone is worth $75,000 with its camera alone costing $30,000.

Drone and music combine for uplifting summer concert series in Marlborough

Marlborough4Fun will be giving people the bird’s eye view of popular spots around the region as part of its new “virtual helicopter tour” attraction.

Punters will be able to slap on a pair of goggles and get previously unseen, 360- degree views of Renwick, Picton and Pollard Park thanks to a drone camera.

GCH UAV trial worlds most advanced drone in Christchurch

Engineered in Switzerland, this drone can fly up to 2000 meters high for as long as 2 hours per flight. It can also fly out of sight of its operator, as far as 100km away.

One of just thirty in the world, its versatility is its selling point. “In Switzerland, they started doing things like snow bombing for avalanche control. In Malaysia and Indonesia I believe they are doing search and rescue and support for that, so we think it’s a national fit for New Zealand.” - Daniel Currie, C.E.O

The drone is powered by a gas turbine engine and can carry up to 40 kilograms. Search and rescue, emergency services, and the private sector all see its potential.

Turbine-powered drone aimed at farming sector displayed by GCH UAV at Agricultural Show

GCH UAV is trialing a large gas-turbine powered drone to service farming clients. GCH (formerly Garden City Helicopters) was showing off a Swiss-made SDO50 at the 2018 New Zealand Agricultural Show, carrying a $500,000 price tag.

GCH Aviation has bases NZ-wide and experience in helicopter and fixed wing services. It entered the UAV sector in Marlborough about two years ago and now flys electric drones to map farms and vineyards to monitor for pests, diseases and growing stresses such as moisture and nitrogen deficiencies.