Shedding light on drones

Schoolboy drone pilot is a record maker

CHE BAKER
Last updated 05:00 19/04/2014
Mark Gardyne
CHE BAKER/ Fairfax NZ

FLYING RECORD: Gore schoolboy Mark Gardyne, 13, with father Neil, and his quadcopter drone. Mark is the youngest ever pilot to take part in the Warbirds over Wanaka International Airshow.

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After watching a drone in action in Afghanistan on television, 13-year-old Gore schoolboy Mark Gardyne has become the youngest pilot to take part in the Warbirds over Wanaka International Airshow.

Mark has been piloting his own quadcopter drone, which cost $15,000, for the past year after his dad, Neil, and he were drawn to a similar machine being used in Afghanistan.

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, have a range of uses from military, search and rescue, recreational and agricultural.

A month ago Mark started his own business using the drone, which involves monitoring sheep and checking for cast sheep as well as checking water supplies on farms and the dry monitoring of grass.

He was invited to the show by organisers and his demonstrations of the drone had been drawing crowds.

"I've always liked planes. I wanted to come and fly here. It feels pretty great," he said. Show organiser Ed Taylor said Mark was technically considered a pilot, making him the youngest in the 14-year history of the show to be involved.

He was invited along to broaden the range of what aviation had on offer at the show and to give people more of an insight into a drone, which was considered reasonably unknown, Taylor said.

Mark's father said "they're really going to take off".

The drone cut the time of driving a motorbike to check the 43 troughs on the family farm from an hour and a quarter to just a few minutes.

"Come lambing time it will be out [being used] everyday," he said.

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