Drone Warning From Firefighters

Operators face big fines

13 February 2018

Firefighters have warned drone pilots to keep their devices away from active fire zones, after a couple of close calls on the weekend.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) said a drone was just metres from the rotors of a water bomber as it drew water from a lake at the Port Kennedy golf course on Sunday.

There's concerns onlookers gathered around the lake to watch, along with the aerial firefighting crew, could have been killed if the drone and helicopter had made contact.

In a second incident on Sunday, a drone was seen flying near a bushfire in Australind as air crews worked to extinguish it.

DFES Assistant Commissioner Gary Gifford said water bombers fly at around 200 kilometres an hour, often manoeuvring in poor visibility, close to each other and other obstacles such as trees, radio masts and power lines.

“While it might be tempting to record footage, drones pose a major safety risk to firefighting personnel in the air and people on the ground, who are often drawn to watch water bombers in action.

“If a helicopter goes down, it is unlikely that the crew as well as any nearby onlookers will survive,” he said.

Even a small drone colliding with or obstructing a bombing aircraft could have catastrophic results.

The incidents were reported to Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Drone pilots face possible fines of up to $9000 for breaking CASA Regulations.

If you see someone operating a drone near a bushfire where aircraft is being used, report it to WA Police on 131 444.

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