First PNGean to be a CASA-certified drone pilot

Twenty-four year old Louis Wanpis is the first Papua New Guinean to become a certified Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or drone pilot.

Wanpis, from Masahet Island in the Lihir group, and East New Britain parentage, was recently certified by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

Louis Wanpis is a survey technician with Newcrest Lihir (Lihir Gold Limited) since 2016, attached with the survey team within the Projects and Engineering department.

Wanpis and five others in the mine engineering and survey teams in April completed an Australian and PNG CASA-certified course to fly drones. Like a  giant  praying  mantis  in  flight,  the  drones  take synchronised  images  that  are  used  to  make  aerial maps. 

Surveyors extract three-dimensional data from drone flights for production and planning needs. Drones are also used to do land/air surveys and land use mapping for social performance departments.

As part of his training, Wanpis learnt to keep strict accurate logbooks of flights and maintenance records of his drone and its accessories like batteries and props.

Knowing how to take manual control of the drone during emergencies and how and where to operate in were also key factors to his training. He knows the difference between controlled and uncontrolled airspace and how to get authorities’ approval if necessary.

To date, he has done 15 solo flights, equivalent to 30 minutes of flight time with no incidents and accidents.     

Attaining a UAV license is an outstanding achievement for the soft spoken Wanpis, but this is one more feather in his cap as he works towards his long held dream of becoming a fully certified engineer/ surveyor one day.

He attended Lihir High School and continued onto Manggai Agro Secondary School, but had to withdraw midway through Grade 12.

With the support of Lihir Sustainable Development Planning (LSDP), he completed his secondary schooling at the Coronation High School in Lae and later enrolled at the University of Papua New Guinea-Kokopo campus, before returning to Lihir.

“Being a survey technician has developed my technical skills. I am deeply thankful to my supervisors and my team. Now I can do survey work out on the field as well as some paper work,” Wanpis said.

“During the drone training, I learnt that there are regulations that cover drones. Drones are helpful in conducting aerial surveys and so far there are marked improvements, yielding better results.

“Being here was no easy passage. I came through the hard way. At times I would be on the verge of crying, giving up.

“I urge the young people of Lihir to remember that giving up is never an option. Nobody is born a failure. Balance is key, draw firm support from family, relatives and the Church but never, ever give up – come what may,” he said.

(Loius Wanpis gets ready to fly a drone at Aginas Sports Oval, Londolovit, Lihir)

Press release