Drone Delays Air Rescue
Drone delays air rescue of fisherman stranded on rocks in Gold Coast Seaway
Posted on 04.10.2018
Helicopter rescuers have had to wait for a drone to leave the skies above a boat accident before an injured fisherman could be winched to safety on the Gold Coast.
The 76-year-old angler was fishing in the Gold Coast Seaway around 9:00am when his boat’s anchor came loose and he was washed onto the seaway’s northern wall at South Stradbroke Island.
While he was just metres from dry ground, he was unable to exit the boat safely.
The Westpac Lifesaver rescue helicopter was on a training exercise in the area and landed on the seawall to assess the unfolding situation.
Crewman Tim Wilson said they were preparing to take off when they spotted a drone.
“We sighted a drone probably not more than 10 metres away from the helicopter, buzzing around filming everything that was going on,” he said.
“So obviously it grounded us for a little while — we didn’t know where the operator was so we had to wait until they moved off before we could do anything.”
While waiting for the drone to leave the area the patient remained trapped inside his aluminium runabout which was being battered by waves.
“He did get knocked around on the rocks a bit,” Mr Wilson said.
“We were lucky it wasn’t a life or death situation for him.
“A rescue that should have taken less than a couple of minutes made it last well over five minutes.”
The fisherman suffered cuts to his legs, and pre-existing hip problems meant an aerial evacuation was the only option for rescuers.
The injured man was taken to the Gold Coast University Hospital in a stable condition.
“He was in good spirits, a bit shaken around,” Mr Wilson said.
Birds and drones can take down aircraft
Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) rules regarding the use of recreational drones are clear.
The CASA website states: “You must not fly your drone over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway [without prior approval].
Mr Wilson said the chopper rescue crew was not prepared to risk a collision with the unmanned aircraft.
“We didn’t want to put anyone else in danger, plus ourselves in the helicopter, if it had have impacted with us,” he said.
“Drones are quite small, smaller than two kilos … birds are small as well and they’ve taken down aircraft.”
He said drone operators needed to stay right away from helicopters, whether they were in the air or on the ground.
Drone registration push
CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said the incident was a close call for rescuers.
“This is an absolute textbook example of what not to do with your drone,” he said.
“It is your responsibility to keep your drone away from aircraft at all times.”
The pilot of the drone involved has not been found.
“A fine in this case would have been in excess of $1,000,” Mr Gibson said.
He said CASA was looking at a compulsory registration scheme to help identify drone operators who breached the regulations.
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