A remote-controlled tree felling machine able to work on steep slopes have been successfully trialled, the forestry industry says.
The machines have the potential to reduce the high accident and injury rate plaguing the sector.
Forest Owners Association research and development manager Russell Dale said 40 percent of accidents in the industry occurred on steep land and the new machines are designed to make felling trees on steep slopes safer and less costly.
Mr Dale said they had been developing cabling systems that would allow the John Deere harvesting machine to work on slopes of up to 50 degrees as well as inserting remote control and video technology into the machine.
"The aim is to get these machines on steeper country and so what we have done is take the next step and say, can we actually operate one of these excavator-based machines with a felling head, can we operate that remotely, so there's no need to have a driver in the machine."
The trials are being carried out as part of the Steepland Harvesting Programme which is a joint initiative between the Government and forest industry.