Stay away from bushfires

Firefighting aircraft do not need you nearby.

Christmas is a busy time for Australian airspace, what with Santa’s sleigh requiring a complex all areas clearance, but this year’s early and intense bushfires have added to the complexity.

So forgive us for stating the obvious, but keep your aircraft away from bushfires.

This applies whether you’re flying a manned or unmanned aircraft.

A current combined flight information region (FIR) NOTAM warns of ‘unnotified intense aviation activity associated with firefighting operations,’ and requests pilots of manned aircraft to remain 5 nm clear of a bushfire horizontally and more than 3000 ft AGL. Unmanned aircraft should only be flown 5 nm horizontally away from a fire and no higher than 120 m or 400 ft AGL.

This is in addition to temporary restricted areas that may be declared near large fires.

CASA’s flying near emergencies page has more information for drone pilots. CASA-verified drone safety apps also have this information.

CASA acting airspace operations manager Anthony Lawler says there has already been at least one incident where an aircraft inadvertently flew perilously close to a bushfire and compromised airborne firefighting operations. ‘We don’t want to see any more of these,’ he said.



  1. Unfortunately this will not reach the social media hacks who just go buy a drone and go find something interesting to photograph. Unregulated drone sales means unregulated drown operators… the regulated ones are generally fine… they follow the rules and do the right thing.

  2. KM, we are getting the message to drone users using other channels, including social media campaigns, targeted advertising and a new drones webpage, We are working with drone retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers to follow a specific set of guidelines when selling drones, to ensure they provide buyers with important safety information on when, where, and how they can use their drones safely.

  3. Probably didn’t look it the correct place but I was unable to find any aircraft related information for the Green Wattle Creek fire which came within 200 m of my property and therefore my aircraft – I was considering flying it out for its safety. In the end I decided there was just too much low level aircraft activity, above my place, for a safe departure – so common sense prevailed. Other points
    – a 5 Nm cleare of fire is almost meaningless when the east coast of NSW/Qld is in flames.
    – some sort of communication protocol, transiting aircraft/airborne fire scout, may be worth considering (I note the firebombers use their “own” radio frequency between themselves.)

    • Relevant control or area frequencies should also be broadcast on and monitored. If there is a C2 aircraft in the area then they should be able to respond effectively

  4. I agree with KM’s inference.
    I think that all drone operators should be regulated and all drones should be registered.
    How else can we expect them to understand and comply with the requirements, and contact them when incidents occur?

  5. I was involved with drones in their infancy quite a while ago. Also had numerous toy R/C planes with vid cams aboard filming back in the good old days of the 80’s. I hardly play with them these days due over regulation and the cowboy element, shame was fun once upon a time!

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