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Drone owners told: stay out of bushfire skies

Australian aviation authorities tell fools with toys to stop buzzing water-bombers

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Idiots with toy UAVs, a thirst for self-promotion, and no idea about safety have been told in no uncertain terms to stay away from bushfire grounds in Australia.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has warned owners of quad-copters and other UAVs to stay out of the air in bushfire emergencies, after a particularly egregious group* posted a YouTube video of their flight over Lithgow, locus of one of the three large fires that has surrounded the Blue Mountains West of Sydney for more than a week.

The fires resulted in the loss of more than 200 homes, most of which were in the town of Winmalee. The drone footage included flying underneath a water-bombing helicopter, direct flyovers of active fire-grounds, and fly-throughs of burned-out buildings. That won the video-makers plaudits for “incredible footage” and, courtesy of media attention, more than 90,000 YouTube hits.

CASA has now stated that the flight was not approved and “appears to be in breach of Civil Aviation Safety Regulations”.

The authority continues: “Flying a remotely piloted aircraft in the same airspace as fire fighting helicopters and aeroplanes creates a real risk of a mid-air collision. If a remotely piloted aircraft hit a fire fighting helicopter tail rotor the helicopter could be badly damaged, with possible loss of control by the pilot.”

The fly-over of working fire-fighters also seems to break the regulation that UAVs should not be flown within 30 metres of people unless the flight carries a CASA approval.

CASA and the Rural Fire Service have both said that if drones are seen at or near fire-grounds, they would have little choice but to suspend air operations. ®

*Bootnote: Vulture South isn't going to add to the idiots' hit-count by linking to the video.

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