22 December 2014

Wrapping up the Year

2014 has definitely been the most enjoyable of the last few years that I've been fortunate enough to be employed as a pilot, with the move up from single engine jumper-dumpers to a twin engine aerial photography role, along with the relocation back to an Auckland base.

Throughout the last 10 months with my current company, I've flown sorties all over the country, with jobs ranging from Northland down to Canterbury, and everywhere in between. The day to day variety is the main factor that keeps my enthusiasm for flying renewed, with a different view out the window and new airports to land at each flight.

The majority of our contracts come from the aggregate industry, requiring regular flights overhead quarry sites as their physical dimensions change on a monthly basis. Other large scale industrial projects such as canal construction, pipeline construction, tidal sandbank evaluations and highway modifications have required large areas of top down photographic coverage. We fly these at a variety of altitudes, with a single flight line at around 3000 feet AGL for the smaller sites, up to large scale grids at 9000 feet AGL, with the runs all plugged into a GPS mounted on the yoke then flown by hand.

My boss also took delivery of a high end quad-rotor UAV later in the year which I've been trained to use and have been flying commercially for the company in a similar manner to the aeroplane, all be it on a smaller scale at low levels. The drone is controlled from a tablet style interface, with flight line grids easily placed over the top of existing aerial photos of the area, and it's on board camera then able to capture and compile high quality up to date imagery for the client. Once downloaded and imported into the accompanying software, this can generate digital 3D models and be used to calculate volumes, dimensions and distances, and is often used for stockpile sites to ensure the sites actual production is matching the companies forecasts.

I also get employed to assist during ground level surveys, collecting GPS 'control' co-ordinates off certain road markings, or custom made wooden crosses around the perimeter of the area we are planning to fly, that are easily visible from the air. Once we have flown the area and photographed it, this survey data can be used to tie the imagery with an exact latitude, longitude and elevation, down to an accuracy of around 1cm in most cases. Thanks to this necessary requirement for each new location that hasn't been flown previously by our company, I get to do a fair bit of exploring off the beaten track to places that I most likely would have never visited otherwise, and it's always surprising just how different the terrain can look from ground level compared to out the cockpit window!

To finish off the year, I've assembled my a collection of snaps taken on the job since March, both from the ground and from the sky. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to visit the blog, and all those who have taken the time to comment or get in touch. Enjoy the Christmas break if you get one, see you in 2015!

Pacific Coast Views

At the beginning of last week, a large anticyclone was covering the South Island and created perfect weather for an aerial photography job waiting to be flown near NZCH. I took the 310 down from Ardmore to Christchurch IFR on the Monday, and enjoyed some stunning views along the way:

A cloudless Cook Straight
Marlborough Sounds
'Big Lagoon' and the Awatere Valley
The Kaikoura coastline
A few specs of snow left on the Kaikoura Ranges
Kaikoura Peninsula
A few days later up in the Northern Canterbury foothills
The Hurunui River, nearby Lake Taylor