Media Releases, News

Know the risks of drones

As Brisbane prepares to host the World of Drone Congress later this month, there is increased focus on drones and their future benefits. The pilots and crew of the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service (WLRHS) are urging all recreational remotely piloted aircraft (drone) users, to know the risk they present to the service and other low flying emergency services.

Earlier this month, the WLRHS’s Caloundra based aircraft, Lifesaver 46, was conducting a training operation off Kings Beach, Caloundra. Pilot and Safety Officer David O’Brien spotted a drone flying nearby while they were still winching the ‘patient’ into the cabin.

“We were in a very vulnerable position. We still had one of our crew outside the craft. I noticed the RPA and it seemed obvious it was filming us.”

“This is one of our biggest concerns; people seem more focused on what their camera is seeing, rather than where they are positioned,” he said.

“We were converging on each other; an RPAS does not have the speed to get out of our way. In this instance, I was considering what could happen next, and that is a completely unnecessary distraction when we are performing these essential procedures”.

“We want people to understand the risk – the potentially fatal risk they are creating,” Mr O’Brien explained.

The WLRHS is appealing for all recreational drone users to familiarise themselves with CASA drone regulations before a potential tragedy occurs.

A spokesperson from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) warns there are implications for irresponsible use of a drone.

“All drone flyers must be aware it is their responsibility not to cause a hazard to aircraft.”

“If you see a helicopter or aeroplane near your drone you must ground the drone straight away.”

“There are fines for breaches of the drone safety rules.”

CASA regulations for drone users specify that:

  • You must not fly over populous areas such as beachesYou must not fly closer than 30 metres to people
  • You must not fly in a way that creates a hazard to other aircraft.
  • The ‘Can I fly there?’ app is available to download from CASA and offers resources which can help educate and inform drone users of the obligations.
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