Mt Helena: drones a potential drain on bushfire response


Chris Martlew from Mt Helena Voluntary Bush Fire Brigade discusses drones with resident Phil Pampling. Picture: David Baylis        d462482
Chris Martlew from Mt Helena Voluntary Bush Fire Brigade discusses drones with resident Phil Pampling. Picture: David Baylis        d462482

FIREFIGHTERS are concerned about the safe use of what is likely to be a popular item on the Christmas most wanted gift list this year.

Mt Helena volunteer fireman Matt Castaldini said there was an expectation there would be an increase in the ownership of drones.

“When it comes to bushfires, we all like to watch the helitacks and water bombers, but as soon as one of our aircraft spot a drone they are required to leave the area or land until the drone can be confirmed to be non-operational,” he said.

“This means they are no longer helping us on the ground to bring fires under control; secondly the drone user could be liable for an infringement from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).”

He urged drone and model aircraft users not to put the lives of pilots at risk.

“The impact of grounding aerial support also brings a financial impact, anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost productivity funded by our taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Never fly a drone, model aircraft or multirotor near a bushfire is the message from CASA because even a small drone could bring down a helicopter if it collided with a tail rotor, or an aeroplane if it hit a propeller.

Visit casa.gov.au/sportaviation or call 131 757 or 1800 687 342.

       Lynn Grierson