SURF Life Saving Queensland is urging those lucky enough to receive a drone under the Christmas tree this year to put safety first and educate themselves about where and how to fly safely.
SLSQ operations coordinator Jason Argent said the influx of recreational drones in operation over the past few years had led to a number of close calls with the organisation’s Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service.
“Drones are a lot more affordable these days than they were when they first came onto the market and as a result, we’re seeing quite a significant spike in the number of people who own and fly them,” Mr Argent said.
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“I’m sure that drones will be on plenty of Christmas lists this year, but it’s really important for people to understand how and where they can fly them safely.
“We often see drones flying over beaches and along Queensland’s coastline and, unfortunately, there have a couple of near misses with our Westpac rescue helicopters.
“Any collision between a drone and our helicopters could have extremely serious consequences, and we’re urging any new drone owners this Christmas to put safety first and keep an eye out for us along the coastline,” he said.
While most recreational drone owners fly their craft safely and responsibly, Mr Argent said it was important for all operators to be aware of their responsibilities.
“Our helicopters fly at relatively low heights along the coastline to monitor surf conditions, watch over swimmers, and be in a position to respond immediately to any emergencies or rescue situations unfolding below,” he said.
“Our message to any new drone owners this Christmas is to always put safety first and familiarise themselves with CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) regulations about where and how to fly safely,” he said.
“There’s a great app that’s been released by CASA called ‘Can I fly there?’ which helps drone owners find out where they can fly their craft safely.
“Regulations are in place to keep everybody safe, from casual and recreational drone users, right through to aviation professionals, and even our lifesavers now as we start rolling out trials of drone technology on patrols,” he said.