Mustering stock or checking silos with on-farm drones

Ken Petts and Rob Sargent will have a range of drones at the field days to suit various on-farm applications.

Drones proved to be one of the hottest products on the market at the 2016 Henty Machinery Field Days, with unmanned aerial vehicles of all sizes walking off the Albury RC Models and Hobbies site.

The business will be back at Henty this year with a complete range of drones, and encourages farmers to consider the purpose of the drone before purchase.

Owner Ken Petts said farmers were keen to invest in a drone for checking fences, stock, water troughs, silos or property boundaries and even mustering cattle.

For use on the land, usually there are no built-up areas or airports restricting flight and drones can range up to 7km.

“One of our clients uses his drone to fly over grain silos to ensure hatches are closed,’’ Mr Petts said.

“The drones use Google Maps and can plot their courses so if a farmer wants to check a fence line, or plot a boundary, the drone will fly it automatically.

“We have another client who uses the drone to muster cattle saving on labour.’’

Mr Petts said the more popular DJI models included the DJI Mavic Pro for its portability, performance and back-up service.

“It folds up into a small case and weighs under 1kg, has a 7km range, uses a smartphone and works off the DJI app,’’ he said.

“It automatically returns to home, automatic landing on a low battery, has a 4K HD camera and portability is one of its main features.

“The drones have gyros to ensure a stable image from the mounted camera.

“A gimbal enables the camera to be turned up and down, left and right.

“We find 90 per cent of drones sold are for photography purposes – we even have recreational hunters using drones to pin point their location in the bush.’’

Mr Petts said video tutorials combined with advice from staff invariable helped customers learn how to handle their drones quickly and easily.

“Take small steps, get it out and hover around to get used to it, watch a few videos plus there are directions on-screen,’’ he said.

“They have a four channel control the same as an aeroplane.

“In urban areas, drones cannot be used in a public area, must remain below the height restrictions, must not be flown at night, remain in the line of sight and weigh under 2kg.

“We have booklets on the guidelines set by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.’’

Albury RC Models and Hobbies staff are licensed to fly the drones for photography or filming requirements.

Specialised drones can have obstacle avoidance systems, up to 20 megapixel cameras, four, six or eight motors, depending on the payload, and have a range of 5-7km.

Ken founded the business in 2009 out of an empty showroom at his Lavington business.

Three years ago, fellow model aircraft enthusiast Rob Sargent joined the business, with new retail premises opened in Urana Road, Lavington.

“We are the sole Australian distributor for several aircraft lines and parts, and have customers nationally and internationally,’’ Mr Petts said.

Albury RC Models and Hobbies supports industry events, including the Wagga Wagga Model Aero Club’s annual Anzac weekend fly-in.

Mr Petts said model cars and aircraft were equally popular among all family members.

He will take a selection of remote control vehicles to Henty this year.

“We have entry level remote controlled electric and nitro cars, balsa wood, wheels and accessories, a specialist range of fuel tanks, fuels, glues, epoxy products, propellers, monster trucks, boats, 4WDs, prime movers, racing cars, helicopters and electrical accessories,’’ he said.

“We do ready-to-run rockets with various engines and heights, plus beginner and trainer aircraft.

“The larger planes can have a wing span of up to 10 feet – it takes literally hundreds of hours to build those from scratch and make them air worthy.

“Most hobbyists work off a photograph of the original aircraft to make sure it is accurate.’’

There are also meccano sets, wooden sailing ship kits, die cast cars, military equipment models, motorbikes, classic cars, earthmoving equipment and farm machinery models, slot car sets, games and puzzles.

A train section ranges from the classic Flying Scotsman to girders, beams, ballast, foliage, turf, lichen, bushes, realistic water, underbrush and a full range of paints.

This year the business has expanded into Leading Edge Electronics products including telescopes, metal detectors and electronics.