CASA reminds drone owners to keep their aircraft away from bushfires, after receiving reports of a recreational drone flying near water bombing operations at a fire in Western Sydney last Friday.
It’s the second time this year that a drone has endangered the lives of emergency personnel, with a recreational operator nearly grounding water-bombing efforts over a fire at Cessnock in February.
‘Devoted fire fighters put themselves on the line to protect our homes and lives,’ says CASA. ‘These local heroes depend on water bombing and aerial support to do their jobs.
‘If you fly your drone anywhere near a fire, you’re not only a fool, but a serious threat and the penalties are severe. So fly responsibly and keep your drone away from the emergency services. Because if you fly, they can’t.’
CASA is working closely with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) to raise awareness about the dangers remotely piloted aircraft—commonly referred to as ‘drones’—pose to the emergency services.
‘We don’t want them anywhere near our helicopter or our planes,’ says RFS Inspector Ben Shepherd speaking to the ABC. ‘Even the smaller drones, which some people wouldn’t believe would impact on aircraft, can,’ he says.
‘These helicopters are coming in low, far lower than they would normally fly…in order to pick up water from dams,’ he says. ‘All that has to happen is for that drone to collide with the blades of a helicopter, or even potentially with a plane, it has the possibility of bringing that aircraft down.
‘As much as you might think that it’d be good to take some vision [of the fire], it potentially could be dangerous or even catastrophic for those aircraft,’ says Inspector Shepherd.
Drones are becoming increasingly mainstream, especially those fitted with camera equipment enabling users to capture popular aerial footage.
While the vast majority of operators do fly safely, the temptation of capturing this exclusive footage is proving too much for some, with an increase in drone sightings over emergency situations like as bushfires, floods, traffic accidents, police and search and rescue operations.
In 2015, CASA issued 15 infringement notices for breaches of the drone safety rules and has issued nine infringement notices so far in 2016. Fines for breaching these rules can range from $180 to $9000.
CASA have been reminding drone owners to keep clear of fire affected areas since 2015 after authorities in the United States were forced to ground aerial firefighting aircraft on several occasions due to unauthorised drones flying near water bombing operations.
More information can be found via CASA’s website.