Finally, Ron Mark has something sensible to say

When he isn’t claiming he served in the SAS, Ron Mark usually has nothing sensible to say.

A makeover of the New Zealand Defence Force should reinstate airstrike capability and include armed drones, says New Zealand First deputy leader Ron Mark.

The latest Defence White Paper is scheduled for March. The Government is reviewing NZDF’s blueprint and how to handle threats and military challenges over the next 25 years.

Mark, who served 20 years in the military, including deployments in Israel, Egypt and Oman, wants a major re-think in policy.

One of the key considerations should be terrorism – domestic and international – and how well-equipped New Zealand is to handle an attack on home soil and defend troops overseas.

Mark says technological advances such as armed drones and more affordable fighter jets offer viable options.   Read more »


NZ farmer orders drone strike on killer cows

Killer cows

Well, sort of…

Janina and Justin Slee are using a drone to muster hard-to-reach cattle on their property near Mount Domett, and the technology has revolutionised the way they operate their farm.

After hearing about the drone at a show in Wanaka about six months ago, the couple decided to bite the bullet and try the technology on their own farm.

The move paid off, and Janina is full of praise for the high-tech tool.

“It’s amazing, it musters a whole hillside in a matter of two minutes,” she said.

“It’s just so easy, so quick.”

It will have to be, as those drones don’t have a particularly long flight time.   But it clearly scares the crap out of the cows for now.   Read more »


Amateurs, they should’ve used drone load


A drone that was hit by shotgun pellets while filming a family firework event at Nelson Speedway is written off after the “incredibly dangerous” act.

The drone was hit by around seven pellets at the annual event on Saturday night, and three were found lodged in the drone after it was safely landed by the its pilots.

Drone operator Sherlock Vision co-owner Geoff Sherlock said the main concern was not the more than $5000 worth of damage to his equipment, but that someone fired a shotgun towards a crowd of more than 4000 people.

“We’re just concerned that obviously there is this drone hater thing out there, that drones impinge on privacy and the whole negative side of that, but this couldn’t be further from that,” he said.

“We were paid to be there, we followed all the correct procedures, we had our safe points, we had our health and safety procedures in place, we’ve done this very much according to every rule that exists.”    Read more »

Drone Warfare comes to Kiwi skies


How cool is this…the US are bringing a Global Hawk to NZ for wargaming.

The NZ Defence Force media release states:


A United States Air Force (USAF) RQ4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) will be used in New Zealand for the first time during Exercise Southern Katipo 2015, the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) largest military exercise.

The Combined Joint Task Force will use the Global Hawk to take imagery of simulated adversary areas of interest as part of the exercise. The RPAS will be operated remotely by USAF controllers with the NZDF advising parameters.

The Global Hawk has an endurance time of over 28 hours, so will travel from its station at Andersen, Air Force Base, Guam all the way to New Zealand, capture imagery and return home in one trip. It cruises at an altitude of 60,000 feet, twice that of a passenger aircraft.   Read more »

Is the Air NZ pilot seeings things? Drone, stealth drone or no drone?

I smelled a rat with this story yesterday

Drone operators are questioning what an Air New Zealand pilot may have seen which led the airline to complain lives were put at risk on a flight out of Christchurch.

Air NZ says no evasive action was need on Friday afternoon when the pilot, flying an Airbus A320 with 166 people aboard, believed he spotted a red drone at 6000 feet above Kaiapoi, well above a 400ft limit.

However, it was “reckless behaviour” by a drone operator who has so far “not had the courage to come forward and address their behaviour with authorities”, said safety officer Captain David Morgan.

But some commercial drone operators are sceptical.

Jared Waddams, owner of Christchurch’s Helicam Pro, says he has been monitoring industry chat rooms about the incident.

“The general sense is the pilot doesn’t know what he’s talking about or has some kind of agenda to get rid of drones,” he told NZ Newswire.    Read more »

A good play from the Seppos, sowing fear into Al Qaeda’s ranks

With recent drone strikes hitting top al Qaeda leaders, fear has started to grow inside the organisation that the US has a network of spies operating.

The Daily Beast reports:

U.S. airstrikes on the terror group are sowing paranoia within al Qaeda’s ranks about who among them may spying for the Americans, intelligence officials and terrorism analysts say.

Jihadist social media accounts on Wednesday claimed that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group’s Yemen division, had executed an alleged spy. Humam al-Hamid was blamed for the drone strike last week that killed AQAP’s top man. The claims that Hamid had tipped off the Americans to the leader’s location couldn’t be independently verified. But U.S. intelligence officials are aware of the allegations and say it shows how attacks on AQAP—which have increased in the last two months—are having a secondary effect: fomenting distrust inside the terror outfit.

“Reports of AQAP’s execution of purported spies suggests unease among the group amid high-profile losses,” a U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast. From the American perspective, that’s a good thing, because it throws the group off balance and makes it harder to plan attacks.

“Such distrust is often difficult to overcome and can create friction at a critical time,” the U.S. official said.

U.S. intelligence officials have long said that AQAP poses the greatest threat to the United States because the group has built bombs that can be placed on airplanes without alerting security systems.

For several weeks now, terrorism analysts have been tracking jihadist suspicions, mainly expressed through social media, that AQAP had been penetrated by spies. These agents, the jihadists fretted, were tipping off the Americans and their allies to the locations of key figures, including the group’s spokesman, who was killed in a drone strike in April.   Read more »

Drone on the Whitehouse lawn. Drone on Japanese PM’s roof. This will only get worse

A drone marked with the radioactive sign and equipped with a camera, flare and water bottle, was found on the roof of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Tokyo office. A police investigation is underway.

A group of ministry officials and security could be seen huddled around the UAV on the rooftop, as it was covered by a blue tarpaulin. Footage from broadcaster NHK first showed a device with four propellers, which was about 50cm wide.

Very low levels of radioactive cesium emanate from the drone, but are too low to cause any real harm to humans.

The contents of the bottle attached to the machine have not been disclosed.

The ability for a civilian to pilot these craft into any sort of location with a serious payload is pretty much unlimited.    Read more »

Drone to kill unwanted insurgents on New Zealand soil

And I’m not joking

Scott Sambell and his dog Millie are finding that keeping Glenfern Sanctuary pest-free can be hard work.

The 240 hectare peninsula is cordoned off by a pest-proof fence to protect native wildlife, but that doesn’t stop a handful of unwanted predators making their way in every year.

“We’ve got over 1000 monitoring stations on here which you try and get to at least once a month,” says Mr Sambell, who manages the sanctuary.

That means if a predator is detected, it could have up to a month’s headstart to get away from Mr Sambell’s team.

“The whole point of this is that we just don’t know what is going out there, and it’s crazy that with all this technology that we’ve got, why can’t we know these things?”

Mr Sambell vented his frustration to inventor Gian Badraun, who’s come up with the Trap Minder, a monitoring system that sends instant alerts by email, text, a computer program or smartphone app the instant a pest is detected.

That means biosecurity workers can act immediately to eradicate the pest, but soon they may not even need to move a muscle.

Eventually the Trap Minder system will communicate directly with a drone which could be set to automatically fly to the GPS coordinates of the incursion.

On one level, that’s so cool.  Yet on another, how do we stop people from implementing these on their own properties?  In their own gardens?  And will they know now to shoot at the kid that’s coming over the fence  just to get his tennis ball back?

Read more »


Photo / Doug Sherring, via NZ Herald

Photo / Doug Sherring, via NZ Herald

A Kiwi invention that uses a drone to take much of the hassle out of fishing is gaining global attention.

From his garage in Auckland, electrical engineer and project manager Kyle Parshotam has been designing and building high-tech “fishing drones” that can haul line hundreds of metres out to sea and drop the bait right in front of fish – upping the odds of landing a big one.

The carbon-fibre aircraft – dubbed the AeroKontiki – can hover for up to 12 minutes and has been built to fly up to 500m with the maximum height locked at 60m.

It also has two GPS systems that allow it to return to shore on autopilot.

“It’s fast – you can deploy the line very quickly with the whole mission just taking a few minutes,” Parshotam said.

“And you can also use it in some pretty harsh environments where you’ve got rocks and big surf which traditional kontikis can’t go through. You can be quite precise with where you drop your bait.”

I guess it’s the next step in the progression using tech, but I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy the idea of a bunch of those buzzing away in popular fishing spots.    Read more »


You may still be dreaming of a hoverboard, but drones are now a retail item


It is estimated that more than 30,000 drones will have been bought by British consumers by the end of the year — a high proportion of them as Christmas presents. The electronics chain Maplin says that sales within its stores are up 300 per cent on 2013.

But as drones move from the battlefield into our back gardens and parks, serious questions are increasingly being asked about their safety.

This week, it emerged that a passenger jet was involved in a near miss with a drone near Heathrow airport in July. The pilot was flying at an altitude of 700ft when he saw the unauthorised machine, which was invisible to radar, flying near his plane.

There was a similar incident at Southend Airport two months earlier — and more recently a Virgin Atlantic pilot reported seeing a drone as he came in to land at New York’s JFK airport.

Frightening stuff, given that if a drone were sucked into a jet plane’s engine, it could have the same effect as a bird strike, which might prove catastrophic on take-off or landing.

Drones have been put to other dangerous uses, too. In October, a European Championship football match between Serbia and Albania descended into a riot after a drone was deliberately flown inside the stadium in Belgrade trailing an Albanian flag, much to the fury of the Serbs.

And sometimes they simply end up causing accidents. In New York this week, a TGI Friday’s restaurant used a hovering drone dangling a piece of mistletoe to encourage dining couples to kiss each other. Unfortunately, after colliding with one woman’s hand, it took a lump out of her nose.

I can see licensing not being too far away in the future.    Read more »