Australia — Bushfire water-bombing pilots from the RFS are concerned about the dangers posed by the increasing number of hobbyists using drones to capture video of firefighting aircraft to upload to social media and YouTube.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has sent out warning posters to operators of Remotely Piloted Aircraft saying they could bring down a helicopter if they were to strike the rotor or a fixed-wing aircraft it they hit the propeller.
CASA says hobby-style craft operating near bushfires are an unnecessary hazard that could force firefighting aircraft to land.
‘If they stop for half an hour or an hour, the bushfire will continue to burn and could put properties and lives at extra risk’, spokesman Peter Gibson said.
“If we get evidence of drones being used in an unsafe manner, we certainly will issue fines and the fines can be many thousands of dollars,” he said.
Anthony Ferguson, superintendent aviation co-operation and planning at RFS NSW, said pilots were nervous of the threat.
“Our advice is if you get wind of an RPA, get on the deck. Land. Pilots are sitting there with radios blazing away, looking out for other aircraft in smoke. They are in dangerous conditions maybe with houses under threat, then some kid comes along with his RPA to get his Facebook moment or his YouTube moment,” he said.
“It’s extremely dangerous.”
Mr Ferguson said last year two bombers had to be diverted and aircraft operations shut down because of hobby drones.
“We had a pilot at Lennox Head and the first the pilot knew that a drone had been flying around him was three weeks later when friends of his said: ‘I saw you on Facebook’. They showed him a photo of him taken from a nearby drone. It’s not the licensed people that are the threat, it’s the hobbyists,” he said.