ATSB obtains drone operator’s certificate to assist investigations

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has obtained a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operator’s certificate to assist with its investigations.

The certificate will allow the ATSB to use RPAs, more commonly referred to as drones, to “gather data and evidence during its on-site investigations”.

ATSB transport safety investigation manager Derek Hoffmeister has been designated chief remote pilot, while there other investigators have qualified to operate the DJI Phantom 4 that is capable of producing high-fidelity resolution photography of the accident site.

“The RPAS brings significant capability to our investigations,” Hoffmeister said in a statement.

“Investigators are now able to undertake an initial site survey to check for safety hazards before entering the site, and we can perform site mapping more quickly and with more accurate measurements.”

Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) acting chief executive and director of aviation safety Graeme Crawford alongside Transport Safety Investigation Manager Derek Hoffmeister and ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood. (ATSB)
Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) acting chief executive and director of aviation safety Graeme Crawford alongside Transport Safety Investigation Manager Derek Hoffmeister and ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood. (ATSB)

Although the DJI Phantom 4 was below the threshold weight that would require an operator’s certificate, ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood said having that qualification meant the drone would be flown under the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) regulatory framework “in the safest possible manner”.

“People who are flying RPAS commercially should follow the lead of the ATSB and gain their Remote Pilot Operator’s Certificate, regardless of the size of the RPAS they’re using,” Hood said.

“This will afford them the flexibility and preparedness to fly any kind of drone or deal with any changes to rules or regulations.”

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) July Briefing note said it had issued fines to three people totalling $3,240 for a breach of safety regulations while flying recreational drones.

The incidents involved a drone flying over an Easter egg hunt, at a wedding and over Sydney Harbour restricted airspace.

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