Don’t fly your drone near a bushfire

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In January a crashed drone started a 20ha bushfire near New Norcia, according to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

WITH a big increase in the number of drones in use the Department of Fire and Emergency Services is reminding Yanchep and Gingin residents not to fly them near a bushfire.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services assistant commissioner Gary Gifford said people need to be aware that flying drones near a bushfire could result in firefighting aircraft having to be grounded or redirected for safety reasons.

Mr Gifford said flying drones near a bushfire could create a dangerous situation not only for the pilots, but for the firefighters on the ground and the public.

He said firefighting aircraft operated in one of the most challenging environments imaginable.

“They fly at around 200km/h, often manoeuvring in poor visibility, close to each other and to the ground and other obstacles – such as trees, radio masts and power lines,” he said.

“Even a small drone colliding or obstructing a (water) bombing aircraft could have catastrophic results.

“If we see a drone we will be forced to ground our aircraft, which would seriously hinder efforts to bring a fire under control.

“There have already been a number of close calls in the eastern states this season, with aircraft having to be redirected because a drone was in the area – we don’t want to see this happen in WA.”

Drone pilots caught breaking Civil Aviation Safety Regulations face fines of up to $9000.

Mr Gifford also reiterated the importance of keeping a safe distance from firefighting aircraft when they were picking up water.

“We need the community to keep a safe distance away to enable the aircraft to do their job, and I urge people to never stand under the flight path of approaching or departing aircraft, especially at areas where they are refilling with water as this can be very dangerous.’’

If you see someone operating a drone or remote controlled aircraft near a bushfire, report it to the nearest firefighter or to WA Police on 131 444.

For more information about the dangers of flying drones near bushfires visit the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) website at www.casa.gov.au