Fiji Time: 11:40 AM on Friday 23 March

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Eye in the sky

Felix Chaudhary
Friday, March 07, 2014

A LOCAL company has been granted permission by the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji to operate a remotely-piloted aircraft system in the country in a move labelled a revolution for the aviation industry.

The licence given to Skypix Fiji, a subsidiary of Lodhia's Travel Services, makes it the first company in the South Pacific to legally own and operate an unmanned aerial vehicle in the country, says CAAF chief executive Netava Waqa.

"They have been granted permission to operate within very strict guidelines and they can only use the UAVs for the purpose they applied for," he said.

Mr Waqa said Skypix could utilise their remotely-controlled aircraft only after seeking permission from the control tower at Nausori or Nadi.

The UAVs are allowed a maximum ceiling of 200 feet and cannot be operated within a six-kilometre radius of an international aerodrome and within three km of a domestic aerodrome. The unmanned aircraft also cannot be operated in populous areas or in no-fly-zones.

UAV pilot Salmendra Chand said being given the green light meant unique opportunities for agriculture, real estate, cinematography and a boost for the investment sector.

"The aircraft we are using has the ability to capture still and video pictures for up to 20 minutes and this opens up the doors for so many industries," he said.

"It is ideal for real estate and investors because potential clients can view real images from an elevated height of up to 200 feet or close to 61 metres."

"They can get daily images of how their investment is developing," Mr Chand said.

"For hotels and resorts, the UAV allows for an unprecedented way to advertise their property.

"And the UAV also gives residential and commercial building owners a more efficient and cost-effective way to scrutinise their infrastructure."

Mr Chand said Lodhia's Travel decided to invest heavily in acquiring the new technology after running up a bill of more than $40,000 while trying to photograph one of their properties.

"The idea of purchasing the hi-tech quad copters to do aerial photography came about when one of our directors had to hire a photographer from abroad and spend a huge amount and wait for three months to get an A3 size photograph.

"Our directors began researching a cheaper and better alternative and that's when they came across UAVs."

Mr Chand obtained his UAV licence after undergoing training in Brussels, Belgium and Perth in Australia.

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