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Another drone spotted in fire zone prompts police plea

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Another occurrence of drone use in fire-affected areas has frustrated the Tasmania Fire Service. 

Tasmania Police have issued repeated warnings for drone-operators that when drones are flown near affected areas, air-efforts that are fighting bushfires have to be grounded. 

The most recent example occurred in the Central Highlands on Poatina Road, where the Great Pine Tier fire has consumed over 55,000 hectares. 

Last week a public warning was issued after a drone grounded helicopters working to extinguish the fire at Arve Road, Geeveston. 

In December, a 37-year-old drone pilot from Howrah was referred to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) after waterbombing aircraft fighting a blaze on Bruny Island were grounded. 

Firefighting operations rely heavily on the use of helicopters and other aircraft and any use of drones in the vicinity presents a risk to manned aviation," Tasmania Police said in a statement. 

"Water bombing aircraft need to fly at low altitudes, a task made more difficult with the added risk of a drone strike."

"Essentially, if you fly a drone they can’t fly at all."

"Please consider the safety of pilots who are flying at risk, protecting the Tasmanian community," the statement concluded.

Authorities warn that a breach of rules around the use of unmanned aircraft could result in prosecution. 

Tasmania Police are recommending the use of the CASA "Can I Fly there?" app, but caution that it may not display temporary helicopter landing sites like those used in some bushfire situations. 

The CASA website contains guides to the rules and links to associated legislation.

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