James McCarthy

Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics)

James McCarthy took his love of taking things apart, and turned it into a lucrative business, with his products now used the world over.

Ever since he was a boy, James McCarthy has been taking apart radios, cars, televisions, remotes – anything he could lay his hands on – just to see how it works. It’s turned into the most useful trait for an inventor – a desire to figure out how things work, and how they can be made better.

The Massey University mechatronics graduate didn’t invent tracking of airplanes, but what he did invent was a cheap, simple, effective way of tracking flight movements in real time for both commercial and recreational pilots.

The invention – named the ‘Spider’ –  is a world-first, a portable device, able to be plugged into the plane’s cigarette lighter. It relays your location constantly to the internet, so even if the box doesn’t survive a crash, the information does.

Other companies had tracking devices, but they involved red tape and complicated installation. In typical Kiwi fashion, James asked why – and went about inventing something better.

He’s kept its head office in New Zealand, but today Spidertracks aviation tracking device is now sold all over the world.