Australia is known as the drone hobbyist’s utopia. It has relatively lax laws and a booming drone industry. But the fire season in Australia is about to begin, and firefighters there are already worried about what we saw in California this summer: Drones getting in the way of firefighting crews trying to do their jobs.
“These sort of things have real potential to stuff up operations and cause damage to aircraft. And that has the potential to bring down aircraft and pilots,” Anthony Ferguson, a fire official in New South Wales told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Our job is dangerous enough – we don’t need these things flying around fires.”
Fire is serious business in Australia, where it’s engrained in the national consciousness much more than even places like California. Perhaps because wildfires are both incredibly common and deadly in that part of the world. As just one example, what came to be known as the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 killed 173 people and injured 414 more.
Hobby drones equipped with cameras have come a long way in just a few short years — both plummeting in price, and rapidly excelling in new camera technology. That’s great news for people who love to fly drones. But it also means that more and more people will be using them near places with stunning visuals; which obviously means around wildfires this coming fire season.
“We need the public just to stay away from our fires. This is going to be a real problem for us, and it already has been,” Ferguson said.
Hopefully Australians will heed Ferguson’s warning. But if Australians are anything like Americans (and they are in a lot of ways, sorry Aussies) there will have to be new laws before drones are kept away from firefighters just trying to do their jobs.
Photo: Getty image from 2009 of the Black Saturday bushfires in Australia