Drones pose risk to fire services

Drones pose risk to fire services A water bombing helicopter drops on a fire in Maiden Gully. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY
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A water bombing helicopter drops on a fire in Maiden Gully. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

A water bombing helicopter drops on a fire in Maiden Gully. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

A water bombing helicopter drops on a fire in Maiden Gully. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

TweetFacebookTHE Country Fire Authority iscalling for greater awareness among users ofdronesin fire danger areas.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority estimates thousands of remotely-piloted aircraft systems are flownfor personal and commercial use in Victoria.

District 2 operations officer Chris Jacobsen said drones posed a dangerous threat to helicopter operators in fire areas.

“Firebombing by nature means (the helicopters) fly at a very low altitude which is a threat in itself,” he said.

“If anything goes wrong they have much less time to correct it.If the operators of the CFA helicopters see the RPA in the area they are required to land.”

Dronescan purchased from retail and online stores.

Bendigo cameraman Julian Fisher said it was important CASA maintainedthe education and regulation of drones.

A standard base-level drone has rotating blades on fourarms and is capable of flying upwards until the battery runs out.

“Most ownersare being responsible but as the drones get cheaper and cheaper it gets more dangerous,” Mr Fisher said.

He said manyof the cheaper dronesdidnot have fail safe technology.

“Without this they can accelerate upwards as long as the battery lasts,” he said.

“When they go up above the clouds the operator can easily lose control if not experienced.”

Mr Fisher said technology topreventadrone from flying above 400 metres was available to download online.

CASA spokesperson Peter Gibson said rural use of recreational drones was under review.

He said asmall drone could bring down a helicopter if it collidedwith the tail rotor.

MrGibson said bushfire sites were never an appropriate place for a drone.

“The bushfire fighting authorities themselves will ground their aircraft if they see a drone,” he said.

Mr Gibsonsaid the grounding of a helicopterput people at risk as there was less control over afire front.

CASA can prosecute or issue a warrantif a person breaches a regulation.