Everest Round Two
NZ innovation could conquer Everest for a second time thanks to the invention of an unmanned helicopter capable of rescuing stricken climbers from its summit. Auckland-based company TGR Helicorp has spent six years developing the Alpine Wasp, an unpiloted full-size helicopter with a revolutionary diesel engine and rotor blades designed to function at high altitudes. While normal helicopters are unable to fly beyond 4300m, the Alpine Wasp can reach heights of 9000m – 150m above the summit of Everest. “We are going to challenge the science of aviation at extreme altitude and conquer new frontiers on Mt Everest and in Nepal,” says TGV Helicorp president Trevor Rogers. Initially sceptical, NZ amputee climber Mark Inglis is now acting as a goodwill ambassador for the company. “Much of my early career was in search and rescue, and the first rule is that a rescuer doesn’t put their own life at risk,” he says. “This [helicopter] is one of the first ways I’ve seen of really being able to ensure that on Everest.” The Alpine Wasp will be tested this year in the NZ Alps and – if successful – will be stationed from spring 2008 in the sherpa town of Namche Bazaar, at 3440m on the route to Everest base camp.