Incredible Skies New Zealand open UAS test range

Incredible Skies New Zealand open UAS test range

incredible skies

New Zealand’s newest fit-for-purpose test range for commercial drones has opened its skies to the world and plans to trial the delivery of medical supplies in November.

The trial, with Medical Drones Aotearoa, will include tests that explore the safe delivery of medicines, and flights that are beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and autonomous – with the ability for a pilot to take control of the craft remotely.

Test range Administrator and Medical Drones Aotearoa founder, Robyn Kamira, says around 14% of patients in low socio-economic and rural areas don’t pick up their medicines and even more ration their medicines to make them last longer.

“The medical and crisis support drone trials will lead to a high-quality, high-value service that will make a real difference to people’s lives. We’re focused on supporting communities that may otherwise be overlooked when it comes to deploying leading edge technologies for services.”

Once the trials are complete, Medical Drones Aotearoa is aiming to start its first regular service in March 2018 pending Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approvals.

The CAA recently released a new regulatory framework which has opened NZ airspace to unmanned air vehicles operated by remote, ground-based pilots working under strict conditions. In combination with the new framework, the Hokianga test range, dubbed “Incredible Skies”, provides an opportunity to extend drone technology research in New Zealand and internationally.

The test area is 874 square kilometres in the Hokianga region and has been established as a commercial drone technologies testing platform. It’s a place to design, build, and test drones; research and trial flights; and even compete in drone racing. Kamira says she’s had a number of inquiries from overseas and local companies wanting to get their CAA approvals and schedule trials. She sees the future of drones as big business.

“Analysts predict that commercial drones will be worth more than USD$11.2b by 2020 (Source: Gartner 2017) and US researchers consider there’s a USD$13b market opportunity for drones in commercial and civil government sectors (2016-2020) (Source: Goldman Sachs Research 2017)

Pilots of manned aircraft have recently expressed their desire to see CAA rules reviewed to keep the skies safe, and Kamira says the Hokianga airspace is away from airports and all trials will be compliant with regulations.

“The Incredible Skies test range uses high quality trial standards that will support drone operators wanting to set themselves apart. The processes not only meet CAA regulatory requirements but add a level of operations best practice so that drone trialists, aviators and communities can be confident that safety is well-managed.”

Robyn Kamira is calling for drone companies and technologists to apply to take part in upcoming medical drone trials or schedule their own by visiting the Incredible Skies website:


5 Apps That Will Make You the Best Drone Pilot Ever

Looking for tools to help pilot your new drone or additional information to help you control it better? Luckily for you, there are dozens of apps for new and old drone pilots to help them pilot and manage their air time.

However, to help navigate through the numerous drone pilot apps on your desired marketplace, let’s take a look at five top apps that will make you the drone master.


1. Hover

Available on: iOS

Price: Free


Hover is one of the best apps on the iOS marketplace due to how informative it is for beginner drone flyers.

Hover comes with a map of International No-Fly zones as well so you know where you can legally fly your drone. Plus, the app is detail-orientated towards weather conditions while you fly, so it pulls the most up-to-date information from local National Parks and the Military. However, you can, of course, get updated weather conditions from local meteorologist stations.

The app also offers live news feed from the drone industry and other drone enthusiast flight logs. This way, drone owners can compete with one-another.


2. Autopilot

Available on: Android and iOS

Price: $29.99


Autopilot is an easy to use app that is especially designed for ease of use and simplicity of setting up. There’s also a built-in flight trainer to help you learn the features that are included and build an array of different flight plans for your drone. Since you have already figured out how to choose the right drone for your needs, the app can help you learn how to fly it better.

The app also features Apple Watch connectivity which is great for Apple fans. However, the app can provide a variety of technical programs that go from built-in piloting features to drone specifications.

In this section, we will be spotlighting Autoflight CEO Jim McAndrew, to offer even more reasons to download this app today.

He remarks, “Autopilot is all about capturing smooth, perfectly framed, and visually stunning imagery. With autonomous and semi-autonomous flight modes, Autopilot enables you to execute flight and camera control sequences that were previously too difficult or impossible to perform manually.

Our app is designed around a Custom Flight Controller that was purpose-built with smooth and safe autonomous flight control as its primary function. By using a Custom Flight Controller, Autopilot is able to offer unique functionality that cannot be found in other apps.”


3. UAV Forecast

Available on: iOS and Android

Price: Free


UAV Forecast is a streamlined app to help you check your drone’s flight weather and make sure you have clear skies for flying. The app gives you a full breakdown of cloud cover, rain, and local temperature to make sure you are piloting your drone in weather that will not risk the safety of the drone or anyone. Plus, it also includes hourly forecasts for either day or week views to help you plan ahead the next time you’re going to fly your drone.

Additionally, the app has an advanced feature that monitors your drone’s KP Index to help you interact with its radio control signal, GPS, and interior electronics. However, this feature is only necessary for those flying at higher altitudes due to geomagnetic interferences.


4. DJI+Discover

Available on: iOS and Android

Price: Free


Whether you are a newbie when it comes to drones or if you simply want to meet more people like you, you will definitely want to download DJI+Discover. This app gives pilots the possibility to connect with each other. The app also provides a space where people can search for or advertise drone services. With the use of this free app, like-minded drone enthusiasts can chat, share tips, and meet-up in person. This makes flying drones a lot less lonely.

When you open this app, you will see a map of your area with pins that signify other app users. Then you can search for social, professional, or all drone pilots, whichever you are looking for. You can also find good flying spots around and view other flyers’ photos. DJI+Discover will help you build your personal and professional network of drone pilots.


5. Flightradar24

Available On: iOS and Android

Price: Free “lite” version or $3.99


A truly fantastic app for flight tracking. Flightradar24 functions globally and provides real-time updates and information on tons of aircraft that are in almost any location. Most people use this app to check if there are any nearby helicopters or airplanes flying nearby. Aircraft are supposed to stay above the minimum 1,000 foot/500 foot safe altitude limit unless they are taking off or landing. Typically they should not be anywhere near your drone as drone pilots are only meant to fly below 400 feet.

However, these rules are not always respected, which makes Flightradar24 a very useful tool to have. It can let you know if there’s any aircraft in the area flying at low altitudes. This way, you can wait until it is safe to take off or simply fly at a lower altitude until the right moment. No drone pilot should fly before first checking the sky on Flightradar24.


Flying a drone can be tough, especially if you’re a beginner and are flying a drone that cost you more than just a pretty penny. Hopefully, this article could offer you better solutions to finding the best drone piloting app on the iOS and Android marketplace to help fly your drone more effectively. But remember, practice makes perfect! Now get out there and get flying!

DJI: Near Miss at WRC in Sardinia, Italy

DJI started sending film crews to the World Rally Championship last year, highlighting the potential of drone technology and bringing WRC to a wider audience. Things almost went very wrong at the latest meet in Sardinia, Italy, when a DJI Inspire 2 barely missed a dangerous collision with one of the race cars. 

Although the Chinese manufacturer has been posting highlights on its Youtube channel after each event, this is one clip you’re not likely to see from an official DJI source…

The video shows a DJI Inspire 2 – presumably one belonging to the official crew shooting the WRC series – reversing over a jump and not moving out of the way in time to avoid the incoming rally car. Fortunately, the pilot was able to pull up at the very last second and avoid any serious contact.

The driver behind the wheel was Esapekka Lappi of Toyota Gazoo Racing. The car was airborne after taking off from the Monte Lerno stage’s Micky’s Jump. Although the collision was by no means a heavy one, the force of car hitting drone appears to have sent pieces of the Inspire 2 flying.

The gimbal took a bit of a whack. We’re not expecting DJI to release footage from the point of view of the drone. Instead, videos like the one below have been produced after each stage of WRC 2017. Each highlights how DJI’s top of the range drones have the speed, manoeuvrability and versatility to film locations and high-speed racing.

Here’s the official statement from DJI on exactly what happened, translated from Italian:

On Saturday, June 10, during the WRC Rally Italia Sardegna, a drone DJI Inspire 2 touched a rally car during the shooting of the event. No injuries or damage to the machine has been reported. The rally continued regularly. DJI is investigating what has happened and is ready to cooperate with all relevant entities. 

DJI Crew has Near Miss at World Rally Champs in Sardinia, Italy


China’s New Silk Road

Drone Industry A Critical Piece of China’s $124 Billion “New Silk Road”

When Chinese President Xi Jinping and 29 other heads of state agreed to an open economy and a policy of free and inclusive trade last month, the announcement rippled across industries.  But China’s “New Silk Road” – the multi-billion dollar initiative which will build new infrastructure and trade links across the globe – may boost the drone industry first.

China dominates drone manufacturing, both commercial and recreational.  Leading commercial manufacturer MMC has seen the country’s move towards an open trading system bring new relationships – and a steady stream of ambassador delegations from around the world.