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Big fines for flying drones near bushfires

People who fly unmanned aerial vehicles – commonly known as drones - near bushfires are being warned they could face a fine of $9000.

This is because drones can pose a real safety risk to firefighting aircraft and bush firefighters.

A Civil Aviation Safety Regulation says unmanned aircraft must not be operated in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property.

The penalty for a breach of this regulation is 50 Commonwealth penalty units.  A Commonwealth penalty unit is $180.

Drones flown in bushfires could collide with firefighting aircraft or hit firefighters on the ground.

A collision between a drone and a firefighting aeroplane or helicopter could lead to a catastrophic accident.

If a drone is seen in the vicinity of a bushfire and is believed to have put aircraft or firefighters at risk the Civil Aviation Safety Authority can investigate.  If a breach of the safety rules is identified a fine can be issued.

In serious cases individuals may be referred for consideration of criminal prosecution, which may lead to a court imposing higher financial penalties.

Flying a drone near a bushfire is also very likely to cause aerial firefighting to be suspended until the drone is located and removed due to the risk of a mid-air collision with an aircraft.

This means the bushfire may not be effectively controlled and people on the ground put at extra risk.

Everyone who flies a drone should understand the importance of keeping away from bushfires and other emergency situations at all times unless they have the appropriate approvals from CASA and emergency services.

CASA urges people flying drones to respect the safety rules while having fun flying.

CASA has released a brochure and poster as part of a  ‘Don’t go there’ drone safety campaign.

Media contact:
Peter Gibson
Mobile: 0419 296 446
Email: peter.gibson@casa.gov.au
Ref: MR11615