Tech Tales: Calling a spade... an antenna?

Published: Sun Nov 20 2016 7:45 PM

They say that necessity is the mother of invention and our tech “ninjas” found that out in…erhm…spades during the latest response to the M7.8 earthquake.

After the M7.8 Kaikoura earthquakes, our techs quickly took to the air to put in more temporary sites throughout the Kaikoura Mountains and Southern Alps. The problem with these locations is its remoteness and sustained damaged to cell towers from the earthquake.

Now, when our techs go out into the field, they can only take the most important items with them due to limited space on the helicopters. Our techs are dropped off into the middle of nowhere with few supplies to make these temporary sites. Think “Survivor” but with a radio, some seismographs and a couple of muesli bars. Our techs are able to put in these temporary sites in a matter of hours.

The lack of space has made our techs…become creative in their use of tools. Recently, they realised their antenna needed more height to communicate with base. They cleverly repurposed a spade (used to dig out ground to place the site in) and used electrical tape to put the antenna on the spade. BOOM: instant communication tower. The Spade-tenna© (patent pending) was designed to elevate the antenna in order to increase cellular signal strength in remote locations. This means we don’t lose contact with these sites.

They quickly put up 9 temporary sites since the earthquake stopped shaking, 4 with the clever spade-tenna.

Tim McDougall, one of our techs, said they were proud of their latest innovation but that they are now running out of spades…

A big shout out to our techs because these sites are a critical part of our ongoing monitoring of the M7.8 Kaikoura aftershock sequence. We couldn't be GeoNet without the people looking after our 600 plus monitoring sites throughout New Zealand.

Andrew Cowie setting up the SpadeTenna™

Andrew Cowie setting up the SpadeTenna™