- By Matt Watson – Western Advocate – Bathurst
THERE were two things that took flight at CSU Bathurst on Thursday morning: a Life Saver unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and the imagination of those who watched it.
The Ripper Group – which provides drone and UAV services for the private and public sector – held a field day at the university to show off the latest technology in the field, including robotics and artificial intelligence.
Bathurst Regional Council representatives, school students, farmers and business people got an idea of how the UAVs can be used in agriculture and the humanitarian and commercial sectors.
“We [the Ripper Group] have an alliance of the best of the best in the industry and we’re wanting to make Bathurst our sandpit or one of our major bases in the country,” Ripper’s business development manager Jason Young said.
Ripper’s general manager for Australia, Ben Trollope, said the group would like to work closely with CSU Bathurst, including incorporating UAVs into the engineering syllabus.
A highlight of the field day was seeing the Little Ripper Life Saver take to the sky and drop a rescue pod that is designed to automatically inflate when it hits water.
Once inflated – which takes only three seconds, according to pilot Mark Phillips – it will provide enough flotation to support three to four people. It is also fitted with an automatic light for night rescue.
Mr Phillips said the Little Ripper Life Saver can travel at up to 70 kilometres an hour and is able to be fitted with a shark alarm and with a camera so powerful that it can see bluebottles in the water from 60 metres up in the sky.
Westpac has sponsored the Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver drones since February 2016 as a way of complementing the company’s rescue helicopter services commitment.
Councillor Jess Jennings, who was one of those at the field day at CSU, said the possibilities were endless when it came to applying the technology on display.
“Agriculture would be a massive beneficiary,” he said.
“I would like to see Upper Macquarie County Council [the weeds authority for councils including Bathurst] take this on tomorrow for weed assessing and weed removal.”
He said the crafts could be used to assess the condition of roads in the council area or monitor floodwaters moving down a watercourse.
And some of the robotics on display, he said, could be sent into council’s water pipes.
“Bathurst has got kilometres and kilometres of ancient pipes underground and these things might become massively cost-effective in helping council manage the water reticulation system,” he said.