Remote-controlled tree felling reduces hazards

Remote-controlled tree felling reduces hazards

New Zealand's first remote-control forest-harvesting machine is being put to work in Nelson.

It's hoped the technology will reduce the safety hazards associated with the forestry industry.

Tony Irvine is still getting to grips with his new machine. He's normally in the cab of a 40-tonne self-leveller cutting down trees on the steep slope, but this week he's started trialling a remote-control operation.

"It's a lot better in this machine," says Mr Irvine. "You feel a lot safer."

All of the controls and displays Mr Irvine would normally see in the cab are on the remote-control unit.

Future Forests Research CEO Russell Dale helped develop the technology. He says it has the potential to take logging workers out of potentially dangerous situations.

"This type of operation we are looking at has no people on the hill felling by the machine and extracting from the hill. People are not involved in those two hazardous activities, so it's a much safer operation for our workers."

The innovation is part of a collaboration between the Ministry for Primary Industries and the forestry industry.

"Ultimately where we could get to is that you'll have an operator sitting in front of TV screens off-site operating machines like this," says Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy.

Aside from the safety benefits, Mr Guy says it has the potential to up productivity too, meaning it probably won't be too long before more remote-controlled machines are operating in forests around the country.

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