Skybase expected to make new bid


Skybase has grounded its application for 500sq km of restricted air space above Alexandra — for now.
The Christchurch-based company had applied to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for a temporary restricted area, for occasional use, as part of ‘‘beyond visual line of sight’’ trial flights of unmanned aircraft.
It plans to make a new application.
Skybase’s initial request was met with ire from some aviators and residents, whose main concern was around safety.
Some also said it would be unfair to restrict other aviators from using the space.
Nick Taylor, the chief flying instructor for the Central Otago Flying Club, commenting personally and not on behalf of the club, spoke to The News last week.
He opposed the initial application.
‘‘I’m pleased [Skybase founder and CEO Michael Read] has withdrawn his application. I’m aware another application may be forthcoming. I will meet it with the same response unless it is radically different,’’ he said.
Safety was Mr Taylor’s main concern.
‘‘There’s a distinct lack of information forthcoming about the safety analysis of the proposed activity.’’
Central Otago Flying Club president Gary Wilson opposed the initial application, primarily because the proposed area for restricted air space included the club’s low flying area it uses for training at Galloway.
Mr Wilson said the area was a prime spot for training purposes because it was sheltered.
If the application had been approved, the club would have had to ask Skybase for permission to access the area, as would anyone else wanting to fly into the air space, he said.
That restriction ‘‘could not have been worse’’ and would affect a lot of pilots, particularly those who fly over the Danseys to travel north to Timaru or Christchurch, he said.
Mr Wilson did not know what the best solution was.
‘‘No matter where you go, you are going to be impeding somebody.’’
Although Skybase has withdrawn its initial application, Mr Read said a second application would be made over the coming weeks.
In a letter to the public, released last week, Mr Read said memorandums of understanding and operating agreements with ‘‘various groups’’ were in progress with the aim of making the area safely accessible for all.
He also noted the company was ‘‘beginning to enjoy a groundswell of support’’ from some who saw the benefit for testing advanced ‘‘beyond-line­of-sight’’ unmanned aircraft, or drones.
‘‘There will also be those who feel less pleased with any new restricted area, however a collaborative and open-mindset of all parties will help focus attention on the positive outcomes we all hope to achieve.’’
Mr Read said the technology could support fire-fighting — in both rural and urban areas, policing, search and rescue and defence force scenarios.
‘‘By late 2019, we expect that the technology and commercial benefits will flow into primary industries and agriculture in New Zealand.’’


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