A tiny drone left lying in a Dorrigo paddock for nearly 12 months has been reunited with its owner in Germany.
Scores of photos and videos recorded during its owner's world trip have been recovered and returned to him after the drone remarkably survived numerous attempts by machinery, cattle and weather to destroy it.
The recovery is an extraordinary combination of contacts, skills and coincidence.
It began when grazier, Alan Jarrett, was aerating his property along Waterfall Road, three kilometres east of Dorrigo.
"I saw a little white thing in the paddock," Alan recalls. "I thought twice before I drove the tractor over to see what it was."
To his amazement, Alan found a tiny drone, approximately, 12 cm by 7 cm, lying in a tangle of grass.
"It was a bit bashed around and I was surprised how small it was." Alan said.
The next day he contacted friend and model aircraft builder, Dennis O'Sullivan, who was able to locate and remove a 64 gigabyte SD card from the drone.
Unlike the drone, the card was in good condition and Dennis was able to download and save a large number of photographs and videos recording the owner's travels through South East Asia and Australia.
Dennis identified the drone as a top quality DJI Spark, manufactured in the People's Republic of China.
Through his model plane contacts he was able to quickly locate staff at the Australian importers in Adelaide and they contacted the Beijing manufacturers in the hope of locating the purchaser.
"Within 12 hours DJI emailed us the information about the drone's owner," Dennis said.
"It was under warranty and belonged to Patrick Nitzsche in Elsfleth, Germany."
The card was loaded with top quality photos and videos, including some of Dorrigo National Park and Alan's farm.
"They were the last images taken by the drone which, after some malfunction, crashed into Alan's well-grassed paddock where it remained, undiscovered, for nearly 12 months," Dennis said.
Dennis posted the SD card to Patrick Nitzsche and received a grateful reply saying the drone had been lost in Dorrigo National Park because its flight system was not working properly.
DJI had replaced his drone with a new one, but he was thrilled to have his data back.
Since then there have been a number of emails between Dorrigo and Elsfleth, the last confirming that the broken remnants of the Spark had been reunited with its owner.
However, according to Alan the story doesn't end here.
"During the time the drone was lying in the grass, the paddock has been grazed by cattle, mowed for silage, cut, stirred and baled," he said.
"And during all of this the drone ... well, the SD card with all the photos and videos, survived.
"The only part we can't find is the battery. It's probably in a bale of hay somewhere."
This last comment has led to some sharp humour:
Alan: "I keep checking all my heifers, looking for one with very bright eyes!"
Dennis: "Yeah, and when they stop at a gate Alan checks their back ends for one with brake lights!"