When New Zealand businessman, the
late Michael Erceg, was lost in his helicopter for 17 days eight years ago Spider
Tracks Ltd devastated founders swung into action.
The three Palmerston North friends
thought there had to be a better way to find aircraft quickly when they
crashed, and to hopefully save lives.
The three comprised two keen pilots
and engineer James McCarthy who is spidertracks’ general manager.
They made a little box that is
truly black and uses satellites and GPS-enabled software to track an aircraft’s
flight online - unlike cockpit recorders that are orange though referred to as
‘black boxes’ after their inventor Mr Black, and which only record pilot
conversations and control movements for investigations after accidents.
The units, called ‘Spiders’,
that sit on a plane’s dashboard, produce information such as location, altitude,
speed and direction of travel – accessed in real time online by the aircraft
owners, who can even text pilots over this system.
With the automated or manual
SOS alerting system when an accident occurs, rescuers can be notified almost
immediately to the last location of the aircraft, decreasing the search area
dramatically, and reducing the time to be found.
The route information remains
on a server till deleted. The ‘black box’ does not need to be found. Online, an
aircraft controller/owner can select individual aircraft in a sidebar to find
out information about any plane.
If a pilot crashed today in a
plane with spidertracks installed, it is likely he would be found within a day,
and very possibly within the ‘golden hour’ where chances of survival are
The spidertacks system - comprising
tracking units, satellite communications and tracking software - is installed in
over 4000 aircraft (both commercial and recreational) in more than 80
countries. Export revenue is $4.2 million.
The company has sales staff in the
US – one in Florida and one in Oregon.
The company recently moved
headquarters to Auckland as it was struggling to find
the people it needed. Some of its nine staff in development and administration
remain in Palmerston North.
McCarthy, whose brother Luke
is the sales manager, says it’s hard finding skilled people. He employs from
overseas, with more in the wind.
“New Zealand is desperately short of people
with IT skills especially software development,” he says.
It’s also far from markets.
But the good thing about doing business in New
Zealand is the relatively low compliance
costs and bureaucracy, and the favourable time zones for many parts of the
world - from Asia through to east coast North America.
McCarthy’s advice to someone who is in their
first year of business would be: “Make sure you understand who your customer
is: focus on them. And make sure everyone in your organisation agrees with you!
Everyone has to be rowing in the same direction.”
For more infomation vist: www.spidertracks.com