Hutt drone rangers get bird’s eye view

The Hutt News - - NEWS - By SIMON ED­WARDS

Pupils New Zealand-wide have gone high-tech as ‘‘drone rangers’’ and one young­ster from Water­loo School is rid­ing par­tic­u­larly high.

Land In­for­ma­tion New Zealand cre­ated a vir­tual field trip to the South Is­land’s Mackenzie Coun­try. Us­ing web tech­nolo­gies and au­dio con­fer­ences with ex­perts, pupils could see how Land In­for­ma­tion staff use GPS (global po­si­tion­ing sys­tems), GIS (geo­graphic in­for­ma­tion sys­tems) and other tech­nolo­gies for their map­ping, con­ser­va­tion and biose­cu­rity work.

They saw Land In­for­ma­tion’s new drone, used in the Mackenzie to mon­i­tor and map wild­ing conifer in­fes­ta­tions, in ac­tion.

Nearly 100 class­rooms logged into the vir­tual field trip and all were in­vited to come up with a name for the drone.

Of more than 200 ideas sent in, Water­loo School’s Anna Wil­son’s was judged the best. Anna, 10, rea­soned the drone was like a bird that could hover and ‘‘go to places we can’t eas­ily get to for a bird’s eye view’’ and said the drone should be called Manu (Maori for bird, or kite).

Min­is­ter of Land In­for­ma­tion Louise Upston came to give prizes to Water­loo School’s year 6 pupils last week.

Be­fore pre­sent­ing Anna with a Galaxy tablet, Upston said she liked that Anna had seen Manu as ‘‘more than a col­lec­tion of wires and elec­tron­ics’’ but as a living thing, with an im­por­tant job to do.

Two of Anna’s friends who helped her re­fine her en­try, Lau­ren Grigsby and Holly Devos, got Whit­coulls vouch­ers and the class was given a Go­Pro cam­era.

Manu was busy with a job in Christchurch last week but a Land In­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer promised to bring her back (the Water­loo pupils in­sisted Manu was a ‘‘she’’) if the class­room used their Go­Pro to cap­ture in­ter­est­ing footage and send it to the depart­ment.

New Zealand Geospa­tial Of­fice act­ing manager Rob Deakin said vir­tual field trips let ‘‘stu­dents get to visit re­mote lo­ca­tions that would nor­mally be too ex­pen­sive or im­prac­ti­cal to travel to’’.

‘‘It’s the next gen­er­a­tion’s ver­sion of the tra­di­tional field trip.’’

Land In­for­ma­tion’s drone Manu was busy out of Welling­ton last week but Hutt pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher Brady Dyer, whose drone is kept busy with shoot­ing jobs where get­ting above a site is nec­es­sary, brought in his drone so the Water­loo School year 6 pupils could see one. From left are pupils Lau­ren Grigsby, Holly Devos and Anna Wil­son, with Na­tional list MP Chris Bishop, Brady Dyer and Land In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter Louise Upston.

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