Drone display at Adelaide Fringe approved to take flight

As part of the biggest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere, the night skies will be painted by hundreds of illuminated drones following the approval of detailed safety checks by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

A drone landed on grass

Note: Video footage to support his release is available—see link at the end of the release.

The drone light display is kicking off the third week of the Adelaide Fringe with more than 350 drones flying over Leconfield and Richard Hamilton Wines in McLaren Vale each night from 7 to 30 March 2022.

Innovative technology allows the drones to fly in formation to create moving illustrations narrated by First Nations singer-song writer Archie Roach and feature music by acts including Electric Fields, Kev Carmody and Nancy Bates.

As part of the approval process, CASA worked with the chief remote pilot contracted by aerial art company, Celestial, to ensure all safety risks were considered and mitigated.

Checks to gain the required approvals are part of CASA’s remit to regulate aviation safety, ensuring safe and legal drone operations that protect those watching from the ground and also other aircraft in the air.

CASA Manager Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Operations, Scott Duffy, said public safety is paramount when looking at drone display applications.

“Drone displays are a growing trend, not only in Australia but around the world. With more and more people coming out to see these innovative displays, safety is at the top of our list and is checked at every stage in our assessments and approvals,” Mr Duffy said.

“Each display is different and comes with its own set of complexities, which is why we conduct a number of rigorous checks to ensure the display complies with our safety regulations.

“Our checks include attending a rehearsal so we can assess the operator’s ability to conduct the display under simulated circumstances. This gives us a clearer picture on the overall safety of the operation and the opportunity to provide feedback to implement into procedures.”

RPAS Inspector, Ed Morris said for this display it is taking a team of 6 licenced drone pilots to run the show.

“It takes a huge amount of preparation to ensure the display comes together on the night and the appropriate procedures and mitigations are in place to reduce risks,” Mr Morris said.

“There are a number of safety measures in place to ensure the drones don’t fly into each other, stay in formation throughout the display and land safety back on the ground. The drone display company use an animation system to meticulously plot out the show, photogrammetry surveys, and Google earth to predict where the drones are going to go,” he said.

For more information about safely flying drones for both commercial and recreational operators, visit the CASA website.

**Please note the following footage and stills are available via Google Drive.

  • Interview with CASA Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (drone) inspector, Darren McGrath
  • Overlay and stills of drone display safety assessment taking place including drones taking off, landing and flying
  • Educational video showing drone display safety assessment process.

Media contact

0419 296 446
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Online version available at: https://www.casa.gov.au//drone-display-adelaide-fringe-approved-take-flight
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