Drone company mulling Alex base

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An airborne data-networking company is preparing to spread its wings and set up a base in Central Otago.

Skybase, which showcased its technology to defence and emergency services personnel in Alexandra last week, has announced it will consider establishing a permanent base in the town.

The company staged a demonstration at the Alexandra Airport and Centre for Space Science Technology last week, attended by representatives from the police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Airways New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority, among others.

They were shown how unmanned aircraft systems could be used in tactical, disaster and strategic settings.

 

Skybase founder and chief executive Michael Read, of Christchurch, said the event was a success and setting up a company base in Alexandra was not out of the question.

“Yes, if we can get support from the community and council and the aerodrome operators, we will be able to create around 10 jobs.”

The benefit to the local economy would not stop there.

“[If Skybase sets up in Alexandra] we will be bringing in people for testing and training on a regular basis, which will pump up local services such as accommodation, meals, vehicles, various technology businesses, etc,” Mr Read said.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan expressed support for the idea, saying it was “marvellous” Skybase was considering setting up “in good old Central Otago”.

Skybase, which is partnered with MAG Aerospace, provides cutting-edge technology to allow organisations such as emergency services to “go beyond the line of sight” using drones.

Mr Read said the system could feed data to anywhere in the world through a high-band mesh network, providing information to groups such as fire crews, police and search and rescue teams.

The project was created in response to market need, he said.

“[It] means that we can send data to all of the aircraft [and] we can bring it down. So, in the sense of first responders, you can now have ‘eyes in the sky’ at a much lower price point than you can with a manned aircraft. What that means is ultimately we can bring capability to organisations that have previously not been able to afford it and ultimately that will lead to saving lives.”

Mr Read said Alexandra was a great location for showcasing the technology because of its long daylight hours, lack of wind and small population.