Crouching on the sand the raptor looks just like its namesake, a fierce bird of prey. But this raptor is no bird; it is a machine - one which combines highly technical software with a powerful drone, designed for taking a long-line out to sea.
The raptor is one of the models of a new type of drone called aerokontikis, brainchild of Auckland engineer Kyle Parshotam. A project engineer for large manufacturing companies, when Parshotam found himself made redundant the idea of inventing and producing something appealed.
"I researched the internet and could find no true fishing drones, so I set about designing one."
Eighteen months later and with numerous challenges overcome he is in business, with about 50 fishermen nationwide using his aerokontikis.
The drone had to have a strong frame to withstand the pressures of weather, power to lift and carry several kilos of weight and pull the line and weights out to sea for 800m or more. It employs all high-tech materials - carbon fibre and stainless steel, with sealed wiring and electronics to resist the corrosive effects of salt water and sand.
"Most drones are square with propellers on each corner, but they only have to have enough power to lift their own weight and a camera. Our design is Y-shaped with counter-rotating propellers on the sides and the back, which delivers more power," Parshotam said.
The software has several fail-safe systems built in; for example if the operator does not release the line and drop the weights the system will automatically drop it and return to the take-off point on its own if battery power gets below half. "And people are coming up with new uses, like one customer who uses it take out a crab pot, drops it 250m out, then pulls in the pot full of crabs."
And without having to pull in a heavy torpedo like regular electric kontikis, the backbone line can be lighter and a heavy winch is not needed.
Parshotam uses about 35m of monofilament line with 16 traces - some people use more - connected to 37kg braid.
With the hooks baited with chunks of fresh mullet, Parshotam connected the line under the frame of his aerokontiki and stood back and powered it up. "Safety is important. You are dealing with a machine and even with all of the fail-safe systems built into the design things can go wrong with machines like helicopters," he explained.
The raptor hovered and went straight up as he manipulated the controls. The traces popped off his specially designed trace board and then at 60m he pushed the flight-control button and the drone headed straight out to sea, with the baited long-line hanging underneath and the spool on the reel spinning. The software automatically adjusts the flight control so it goes straight, compensating for wind gusts.
The operation is simple - one button for elevation and one for forward flight. "We are connected to 13 satellites," he said, looking at the control panel. Power levels and distance are shown, and a computer-styled voice gives automatic reports. After only three minutes he said, "It is 850m out," and flicked a button which released the 12-ounce sinker.
The drone automatically returns to the take-off point and lowers itself on to the launch pad.
Parshotam is also developing an app which can save spots. "If you have a good catch in one spot you can save it as a favourite, and it will go back to exactly the same spot."
The drone industry is in its infancy, and questions such as civil aviation issues and privacy are being addressed. Parshotam has checked with authorities and sending the drone out to sea from a beach is no problem, as long as any no-fly zones such as Air Force bombing ranges are observed.
Rotorua lakes has picked up, with fly fishing at cold-water stream mouths on Lake Rotorua going well and a lot of the trout caught are full of caddis larvae. Deep trolling on the deep lakes is also excellent and the black toby is the lure of choice for trolling, with 20m the best depth on Lake Tarawera.
Tip of the week
When setting long-lines from a beach the baited hooks should be lying with the hook point facing upward. This is less likely to create drag by the point digging into the sand.
Bite times are 5.35am and 6pm today and tomorrow at 6.20am and 6.40pm. More fishing action can be found on Rheem Outdoors with Geoff, 5pm Saturdays, TV3, and at www.GTtackle.co.nz.