High-tech spy drones and sophisticated seabed mines are being developed in New Zealand and sold to global military superpowers.

The cutting-edge systems are being developed by Defence Technology Agency (DTA) - the science and technology arm of the Defence Force.

The agency, which employs 80 civilian scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff at Devonport Naval Base in Auckland, is helping New Zealand become a small but significant player in the global military hardware market.

The US Navy has just bought six diver training systems with built-in replica mines.


When divers are detected by the smart mines, the Last Post trumpet call is blasted out of underwater speakers in a wry substitute for a massive fatal explosion.

The drones market is expected to become an $89 billion global industry by 2020.

"Like all militaries, the NZDF regards UAVs as a useful surveillance tool," DTA director Dr Brian Young told Xinhua News Agency this week.

The beyond-line-of-sight surveillance drones - deployed in Afghanistan - are designed to function in hostile GPS-denied environments.

While commercial activities are increasing for DTA, its core focus remains scientific and technological support of the Defence Force's military capabilities and operations, Dr Young said.

It includes helping upgrade the Royal New Zealand Navy's two frigates, developing the Defence Force's self-protection systems, as well as general safety of its aircraft, ships and land vehicles.