Lives put at risk as drones fly near water bombers battling bushfires

Lives put at risk as drones fly near water bombers battling bushfires

13 February 2018

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AUSTRALIA – People could be killed if drones fly dangerously close to water bombers, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) warns.

A drone came within metres from the rotors of a water bomber on Sunday, while it drew water from a lake at a Port Kennedy golf course.

Firefighters say onlookers could have lost their lives if the drone made contact with the helicopter.

A drone was also spotted near the fire front of a bushfire in Australind, in a second incident on the same day.

They were both reported to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and the drone pilots now face fines of up to $9,000 for breaking regulations.

Water bombers travel at about 200km/h through poor visibility while avoiding things such as trees 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,” DFES Assistant Commissioner Gary Gifford said.

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

Anyone who witnesses someone operating a drone near a bushfire where an aircraft is being used is asked to report it to WA Police on 131 444.

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