The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is warning drone owners to keep away from bushfire-affected areas this summer.
The call comes as the aviation safety regulator launches a social media campaign reminding the public never to fly a drone, model aircraft or multirotor near bushfires.
‘While it might be tempting to record footage, you can pose a major safety risk to firefighting personnel in the air and on the ground,’ says a CASA spokesperson.
‘Even a small drone can represent a safety risk to manned aircraft. Due to this risk, firefighting aircraft can be grounded if other unauthorised aircraft are spotted near firefighting operations.’
As Flight Safety Australia reported in June, two fixed-wing firefighting aircraft were grounded in California when authorities spotted a drone flying nearby.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, (Cal Fire) later tweeted: ‘Tonight a hobby drone grounded firefighting aircraft by flying over the #LakeFire. When you fly … we CAN’T! Puts our pilots’ lives at risk.’
Tonight a hobby drone grounded firefighting aircraft by flying over the #LakeFire. When you fly…we CAN’T! Puts our pilots lives at risk.
— CAL FIRE PIO Berlant (@CALFIRE_PIO) June 25, 2015
Firefighters on the ground also depend on aerial support to help supress and contain fires. ‘By flying your drone, you not only put their lives in danger, but also the lives of the people and property they’re trying to protect,’ says CASA.
‘Aircraft—both manned and unmanned—that are not coordinated through the state or territory fire authority are requested to remain clear of aerial firefighting operations.’
CASA is working closely with state and territory firefighting services and the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) to help raise awareness of the dangers of drone operators flying near bushfire-affected areas.
More information can be found at: casa.gov.au/rpafire