11 May 2010

Aircraft tracking company sees itself as world leader

9:09 am on 11 May 2010

A Manawatu company that has developed an aircraft tracking device, has clients in more than 50 countries. It's called Spidertracks.

Spidertracks is a small box which sits in an aircraft or vehicle and automatically transmits its location every few minutes, allowing designated users around the world to log onto a website and track the progress of the flight.

The safety system was developed in Manawatu in 2006, by engineer James McCarthy and entrepreneur Don Sandbrook after a crash near Raglan in 2005. Searchers took nearly two weeks to locate the aircraft.

The first spider was purchased by helicopter pilot Bruce Bartley, who eventually bought into the company.

The system uses the Iridium satellite network to transmit the aircraft's location, speed and direction every few minutes.

Spidertracks thinks it has the potential to be world leaders in this technology.

Cmpany spokesperson Rachel Donald says it's like "a trail of breadcumbs" that can be immediately tracked.

She says the spider is considered more practical and reliable than emergency location transmitters, which have be known to fail in crashes.

The company has grown quickly since its inception. Ms Donald says it targets pilots of light aircraft and helicopters, as well as companies operating fleets of aircraft or vehicles.

The company has eight staff based in Palmerston North and is starting a sales base in the United States.

Clients are in more than 50 countries, including Antarctica, the North Pole and Mongolia.

The Spidertracks unit here is subsidised by Airways New Zealand and costs about $7 per hour to track.