A falcon was captured mid-flight near Oyster Bay. Photo: Colin Aitchison/ GCH UAV.

Bird’s eye view as falcon meets drone

A Blenheim drone expert taking to the skies over Marlborough had a first-hand encounter of the feathered kind.

GCH UAV operations manager Colin Aitchison was filming near Oyster Bay when he was joined in the air by an inquisitive falcon who headed straight for the drone.

Colin, who has more than 700 hours of flight time under his belt, says the chance encounter was his “best experience to date.”

“I’d been filming for around 15 minutes and was tracking back to the landing area before I noticed the falcon approaching.

GCH UAV operations manager Colin Aitchison. Photo: Supplied.
GCH UAV operations manager Colin Aitchison. Photo: Supplied.

“I’ve flown in the same areas as hawks and falcons many times and before this, they have all given us a wide berth – likewise us to them.

“I’ve never had one make a beeline like this to the drone, my first thought was how much flight time do I have left to deal with whatever is about to happen,” he says.

Colin had been filming at around 1000ft above ground level, with clearance from Airways NZ, and was steering the drone back down.

He had descended to 200ft when the falcon arrived.

The falcon kept pace with the drone, heading straight for the camera’s lens.

It even chased the drone after Colin put it in a high-speed dive to land it.

“I could clearly see its eyes on my screen flicking about trying to identify the UFO in its airspace.

“Once it had flown off to one side, I put the craft into a high-speed dive to land, the falcon turned, tucked its wings and chased the drone to the ground – easily keeping pace beside us as if he was racing,” he says.

Colin learnt the art of aerial photography while in Queenstown, capturing “screaming tandem skydive” customers mid-air.

The award-winning photographer discovered Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV) in 2012 and was one of the first in the country to use the technology.

In 2014 he turned what had been a hobby into a full-time business, founding Droneworks New Zealand before joining GCH Aviation as a UAV operator and operational analyist in 2017.

The company holds a Part 102 certificate from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Worried about an accidental collision with the bird, Colin says he held the drone in position and waited until the falcon had started to lose interest.

“It was a pretty awesome experience”.

Friends, from left, Georgie Ballagh, Rose Church, Bridgette Yarrall, Shania Tunnicliff and Maddy Ryan with their invention. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Thinking outside the lunchbox

A group of friends have invented a way to tackle the scourge of school lunchboxes – brown fruit.

Five business studies students from Marlborough Girls’ College have come up with a plan to stop fruit growing brown.

They hope their special spray will prove to be a big hit with families sick of ditching spoiled produce.

The year 12 friends, Georgie Ballagh, Rose Church, Maddy Ryan, Shania Tunnicliff and Bridgette Yarrall came up with the concept as part of their business studies class.

“We had to come up with something that would fix a problem. We started with food waste and how much waste families throw out and went from there to the spray,” says Shania.

The close-knit group tried and discarded several recipes before finding their final formula for Keep ‘n Fresh.

It was created in the kitchen at the Scenic Circle Hotel in Blenheim to strict hygiene standards.

And it was a long process to find the right one, says Shania.

“It was trial and error between all the different recipes. There was one that worked well but it tasted of honey.

“We didn’t want one that flavoured the food”.

Inventors, from left, Bridget Yarrall, Georgie Ballagh, Rose Church, Shania Tunnicliff and Maddy Ryan. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
Inventors, from left, Bridget Yarrall, Georgie Ballagh, Rose Church, Shania Tunnicliff and Maddy Ryan. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

The spray, which comes in a lunchbox size 5oml for $2.99 and a bigger 100ml bottle for $4.99, has been a steady seller.

But the girls are keen to get the word out.

“It really does work and we were quite surprised that there’s nothing else quite like it that you can already buy,” Maddy says.

The groups CEO, Rose, says the product had piqued public interest.

“When we did our research, we discovered there were lots of people who would be interested in buying it.”

The girls hope to continue selling the spray even after their business studies class has finished.

They hope to be selling it at the Farmers’ Market soon.

“We went to the car boot sale, but it wasn’t really the right target market.

“We need to be somewhere with more families,” says Rose.

Twenty per cent of all sales will be donated to John’s Kitchen in Blenheim.

BeeApp Co-founder and CEO Erik Bast, left, out in the field with the BeeApp. Photo: Supplied.

Bee Intelligence creating a buzz overseas

The brains behind a new beekeeping app have been chosen to pitch for a $100,000 funds boost.

Bee Intelligence, which provides its BeeApp software for commercial beekeepers, is one of just 20 companies to be shortlisted.

The app, which started life in Marlborough, saw off competition from a raft of other businesses at the LAUNCH Festival in Sydney –  which attracted more than 1000 start-up businesses.

BeeApp Co-founder and CEO Erik Bast, says it’s been an exciting time.

“We’re really excited to be one of the few startups pitching at the event – it’s strong validation that there is international interest in BeeApp.

“We are excited about the opportunity to be exposed to the resources and expertise of these global innovation leaders, he says.
Bee Intelligence co-founder Christian Stresing made the long trip from Berlin to Sydney to join some of the team on the ground.

The company has earned the right to take part in a pitch which could see them scoop the prize pool. The event is the first international version of Silicon Valley’s largest startup conference.

Three New Zealand startups from ecentre’s Sprint Global startup programme also flew to Sydney to take part.

Marlborough-based BeeApp co-founder and keen beekeeper Dale DeLuca came up with the idea after looking for ways to help combat everyday problems.

The self-taught apiarist says he couldn’t find an app that could help.

“I quickly found there wasn’t anything decent around that was going to help me understand how my hives were performing, or keep track of the health of my bees…

“As a beekeeper I understand what beekeepers need,” he says.

The company’s technology suite includes sensors, offline smartphone apps and web-based dashboards.