Qld planes tempt Google maps

Ergon Chairman Ralph Craven is all smiles after a test flight in Hervey Bay.
Ergon Chairman Ralph Craven is all smiles after a test flight in Hervey Bay. Alistair Brightman

CUTTING edge planes developed in Hervey Bay are set to become Google’s newest mapping tool.

Ergon CEO Ian McLeod and chairman Ralph Craven will fly to San Francisco next week to meet with Google executives.

Mr McLeod said Google had expressed interest in procuring up to 70 of the custom-made planes manufactured by local company Seabird Aviation.

He said Victorian fire-fighting services had also approached Ergon to explore the plane’s fire-fighting capability.

“I’ve also already been approached by a number of Australian companies,” he said.

“If the product takes off the way I think it will, Seabird will have a lot of decisions to make about expanding production,” he said.

Seabird Aviation and Ergon energy have worked for more than two years to develop two custom-designed surveillance planes that will be put into action in August.

The planes are designed to survey Ergon’s 150,000km long electricity network.

Their wider potential has provoked interest among governments and surveying companies.

Seabird is one of only three aviation manufacturers in Australia and is the only commercial manufacturer in Queensland.

Seabird program manager Francois van Teijlingen said orders for the plane would be a massive boost to the company and the local economy.

He said Seabird had aimed to double production and staffing levels by the end of the year.

“This project is the combination of years and years worth of effort,” he said.

If the planes are successful, Seabird Aviation plans to sub-contract their manufacturing to other local companies and concentrate almost entirely on assembly.

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