The Hawk UAV Team attended the UAS Symposium organised by Callaghan Innovation and held in Auckland on the 8th and 9th July 2013.  Approximately 120 people turned up, more than twice the number expected.

The first day was taken up with flying demonstrations by a number of suppliers.  Multi-rotor helicopters and fixed wing aircraft were shown in static displays, and several multi-rotor craft flew from the grounds of the Muriwai Volunteer Fire Brigade HQ.  The site was ideal for this, as the HQ is located on the top of an escarpment and has a flat grassed area where the craft could be launched and retrieved.

A separate area at sea level in front of the surf lifesaving HQ was available for fixed wing operations.  This area had been notified in a NOTAM and permitted flight beyond line-of-sight.  Two aircraft were expected to be demonstrated , but only the Skycam UAV Swampfox actually flew because of the weather conditions and relatively short landing area.  The wind was averaging 20kph, gusting 27kph.

Prof. John B. assisted Lew Woods from Skycam UAV to launch the Swampfox, which flew for about 30 minutes.  Like the AUT Hawk, the aircraft is launched from a bungee catapult; Lew handled the aircraft while John manually steered the machine for the first few seconds of flight to ensure it cleared the trees surrounding the launch area.  "Swampy" has the DTA autopilot on board and is operated from the same GCS as our own Hawk.  The crowd was impressed when Swampy disappeared over the sand dunes, sending back real time images of the shore and breakers; the multi-rotors were all flown within 100m of their take-off point.  The flight was followed on the GCS computer display and the onlookers competed to be the first to spot the returning aircraft.  A number of people asked for the plane to be flown lower and for simple transects to be conducted.

At the end of the half hour scheduled flight, Lew brought Swampy down under heading staibilised control for a perfect landing in front of the crowd.

The second day consisted of a series of presentations on UAS flight in New Zealand, presentations by representatives from CAA and CASA, capability statements by manufacturers and suppliers, and briefings on current research by users of the systems.  There was also a static display of equipment in the Navy Sports Complex, where all of the aircraft demonstrated on the first day were joined by several other aircraft.

The two days were an excellent opportunity for all suppliers and users to exchange information and network.  One important outcome was the strong feeling that we need an organisation to represent users and suppliers of UAS in New Zealand.  Regulation is lagging behind development, and it is clear that the industry is being held back by uncertainty over operating conditions and approvals.

 John R with Swampfox

Large multi-rotor craft set up for spraying

Multi-rotor comes in for landing, taking pictures of the crowd

Skycam UAV display with AUT Hawk in its transport case in front of the table