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Media Release

​Don’t turn your Christmas present into a firefighting menace
Sunday 15 January 2017 – 10:35 AM

The increasing popularity of drones in Western Australia has prompted a reminder to the community not to unwittingly halt firefighting efforts this bushfire season.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) Assistant Commissioner Gary Gifford said drones had proven to be popular Christmas gifts in recent years, but few were aware that flying them near a bushfire could result in firefighting aircraft having to be grounded or redirected for safety reasons.

"Flying drones near a bushfire could create a dangerous situation not only for the pilots, but for the firefighters on the ground and the public,” Assistant Commissioner Gifford said.

Assistant Commissioner Gifford said firefighting aircraft operate in one of the most challenging environments imaginable.

"They fly at around 200 kilometres per hour, often manoeuvring in poor visibility, close to each other and to the ground and other obstacles - such as trees, radio masts and power lines,” he said.

"Even a small drone colliding or obstructing a bombing aircraft could have catastrophic results.

"If we see a drone we will be forced to ground our aircraft, which would seriously hinder efforts to bring a fire under control.

"There have already been a number of close calls in the Eastern States this season, with aircraft having to be redirected because a drone was in the area – we don’t want to see this happen in WA.”

Drone pilots caught breaking Civil Aviation Safety Regulations face fines of up to $9000.

Assistant Commissioner Gifford reiterated the importance of keeping a safe distance from firefighting aircraft when they are picking up water.

"We need the community to keep a safe distance away to enable the aircraft to do their job, and I urge people to never stand under the flight path of approaching or departing aircraft, especially at areas where they are refilling with water as this can be very dangerous,” he said.

If you see someone operating a drone or remote controlled aircraft near a bushfire, report it to the nearest firefighter or to WA Police on 131 444.

For more information about the dangers of flying drones near bushfires visit the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) website at www.casa.gov.au.


Media Contact: DFES Media and Corporate Communications 9225 5955


CASA’s top drone tips

  • Never fly your drone within 30 metres of people and property.
  • If drone pilots see a low flying aircraft they must ground their drone immediately.
  • Keep your drone in your line of sight at all times.
  • Never fly your drone in a manner that causes a hazard to people, property or aircraft at any time.


Notes to editor

  • CASA estimates there are tens of thousands of drones in use across Australia, with several thousand received as Christmas presents in 2016.
  • In January 2017, a 20 hectare fire near New Norcia in the Midwest Gascoyne was caused by a crashed drone.
  • In March 2014, a Dash 8 charter plane narrowly avoided a collision with a drone at Perth Airport.
  • The Australian Transport Safety Bureau recently found the number of remotely piloted aircraft accidents and incidents had increased significantly – from 14 occurrences between 2006 and 2013 to 37 occurrences between 2014 and 2015.



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