CASA has issued a stern warning to people operating unapproved ‘drones’ over bushfire scenes, stating that not only are they putting the lives of aerial firefighters and others at risk, they are also breaking the law.
The move comes after video footage taken from a remotely-piloted aircraft being operated on the NSW Lithgow fire ground was broadcast. The warning also reflects the growing interest in UAVs by the community.
CASA said flying a remotely-piloted aircraft in the same airspace as fire fighting helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft creates a real risk of a mid-air collision and noted the footage from the UAV over Lithgow “was not approved and appears to be in breach of Civil Aviation Safety Regulations”.
CASA’s director of aviation safety, John McCormick, said the unapproved use of remotely piloted aircraft during a bush fire was irresponsible. “People who have a ‘drone’ must fly according to the Civil Aviation Regulations and they must use their common sense,” McCormick said. “Flying an unapproved remotely piloted aircraft near fire fighting aircraft, fire fighters and fire fighting vehicles is dangerous.”
Operators of both commercial and recreational remotely piloted aircraft are required to comply with Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations. The regulations include provisions requiring remotely piloted aircraft not to operate closer than 30m to people unless otherwise approved. It is also an offence to operate a remotely piloted aircraft in controlled or restricted airspace without approval or to operate in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property.