DFES issues warning about flying drones near water bombers after weekend incidents

Stock image.
Stock image.

DEPARTMENT of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has issued a warning about people flying drones near water bombers after two drone flying incidents that could have resulted in dozens of deaths.

The two incidents have been reported to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

One drone flew dangerously close to the rotor blades of a water bomber as it drew water from a lake at the Port Kennedy Golf Course for a fire in Baldivis on Sunday.

It happened as dozens of onlookers crowded around the lake to watch the water bombers in action.

The second incident occurred during firefighting efforts at the fire front of a bushfire in Australind on the same day when a drone flew close to working fire crews.

DFES Assistant Commissioner Gary Gifford said water bombers flew in extremely dangerous situations and close flying drones were an unacceptable risk.

“While it might be tempting to record footage, drones pose a major safety risk to fire fighting personnel in the air and people on the ground, who are often drawn to watch water bombers in action,” he said.

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

“Even a small drone colliding with or obstructing a bombing aircraft could have catastrophic results.”

He said water bombers flew at a speed of about 200km/h, often manoeuvring in poor visibility, close to each other and other obstacles such as trees, radio masts and power lines.

DFES has issued a warning to drone users that their actions could have killed the aerial firefighting crew along with onlookers had the drone made contact with the helicopter.

Both incidents were reported and the drone pilots now face possible fines of up to $9000 for breaking CASA Regulations.

If you see someone operating a drone near a bushfire where aircraft are being used report it to WA Police on 131 444.

For more information about how to fly a drone safely visit the CASA website.

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