Finalist in green tech challenge using drone aircraft

By Prateek V

A Taranaki company has made use of drone technology in a challenge to create water pollution solutions

A national challenge to tackle agricultural water pollution has seen a New Plymouth finalist come to the forefront of the competition using drone technology.

Drone Technologies invention ‘Mai Wai,’ meaning ‘my water,’ allows researchers to collect water samples through drone aircraft, these samples are then compiled on an online cloud platform, which is accessible to both researchers and the public alike.

The Mai Wai project was selected by New Plymouth based Johnson Labs as a contender for the New Zealand Aerospace Challenge’s NZ$30,000 grand prize, after a four month trial programme comprised of 20 other institutions competing for the opportunity.

The Aerospace Challenge was created in tandem with Airbus and Canterbury regional development unit ChristChurch, NZ, after a solution was needed for the detection, maintenance and measurement of agricultural resources like water and soil. The competition was intended to focus on satellite or unmanned aircraft as a way to increase the operational efficiency of research projects.

Chief executive Ben Plummer said the project addressed problems for scientists trying to find solutions to water pollution.

"Currently there are limited spatial testing sites, low frequency of sampling and it is difficult to identify polluters along with water bodies," he said.


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The technology has undergone several test runs through various projects conducted in Taranaki, including one in conjunction with Ngamatapouri School that looked into how rainfall can impact the clarity and colour of water sources. Students were taught how to operate the drone to take images, within given legal parameters, and at designated monitoring points.

The challenge programme is designed to monitor sediment flow and the resulting impact of water pollution on agricultural operations, in a bid to improve the industry’s impact on climate change. The competition encourages applicants to investigate and manage innovative solutions, without negatively impacting the success of New Zealand’s agricultural industry.

Speaking on the efficacy of Mai Wai’s solution, Johnson Corner Chief Executive Adnan Belushi said the technology had global potential across a market of 10mn sites.

"Technology companies with a purpose are the most valuable companies in the world, so having a data-driven company such as Drone Technologies, developed in Taranaki and exported to the global market, contributed to our vision for building a strong technological economy in our region, and an economy that can become a solid backbone for our region's prosperity." Belushi said.


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