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Queensland firefighters call for drones to be grounded

written by Adam Thorn | October 14, 2020

Dunns Road bushfire
RFS crews head into the Dunns Road bushfire. (RFS Riverina Zone)

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services has warned drone owners in the Kooralbyn area to keep their devices out of the sky.

It comes as crews battle to contain a large bushfire in the Scenic Rim region, south-west of Brisbane, first reported on Monday.

Significantly, the announcement comes after Australian Aviation reported in August that a rogue drone caused firefighting planes and helicopters to be grounded as they battled to contain a blaze threatening homes in a small Northern Territory town.


NT Police superintendent Daniel Shean said the drone could have prevented firefighters from containing the blaze and urged owners to follow current regulations that specifically prohibits a drone being flown in a way that could be hazardous to an aircraft, or higher than 120 metres above ground level.

In April, Australian Aviation reported how the number of ‘near encounters’ between drones and manned aircraft has doubled in three years – with 194 such occurrences in 2019, up from just 87 in 2016.

The rise in reported cases is likely due to the explosion in drone ownership, with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau now estimating there are at least 50,000, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of remote piloted crafts in Australia.

While one has yet to cause an accident, the numbers will raise concerns that a more dangerous incident in future is inevitable. In Canada in 2017, for instance, a drone hit a commercial aircraft and damaged its wing, while in the UK a device flew directly over the wing of an Airbus 319 coming into land at London Gatwick.

Earlier this month, CASA appealed to the public to find a “rogue” drone that was spotted flying close to an aircraft as it was approaching to land at Sydney Airport.

The plane’s pilots spotted the one-metre device from the cockpit at about 1,200 metres on Monday, 20 July.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority said the object was described as blue and possibly a quadcopter type – meaning it has four rotors. It was spotted in the Granville/North Parramatta area between 2pm and 3pm.

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Comments (4)

  • I love looking through an article that will make people think.

    Also, many thanks for allowing for me to comment!

  • Danny


    Okay folks time for a sanity check. This quote from the article is quite revealing – “The plane’s pilots spotted the one-metre device from the cockpit at about 1,200 metres on Monday, 20 July.”

    I’ve been flying RC aircraft for 20+ years and anyone who has been involved in the hobby knows that any fixed wing model aircraft, model helicopter or drone with a span of 1m knows that spotting this from a range of 1200m is highly unlikey nigh impossible when the plane is stationery, let alone when both objects are moving.

    Some perspective please.

  • Colin Campbell


    Likewise, Danny, I have flown model aircraft for 20 years and agree with part of your comment. But, my reading of the article was that the drone was spotted while the aircraft was flying at 1200m – 3000ft – altitude, way above the legal requirement for drones of 400ft AGL.

  • Mark


    Danny, Think altitude not range…

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