3 Jan 2019

Pilot: drone owners playing with lives

6:40 pm on 3 January 2019

A chopper pilot who had a close encounter with a drone in Auckland's CBD on New Year's Eve says its operator was playing with people's lives.

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Photo: 123RF

Tony Monk, an aerial filming specialist, was flying a helicopter filming Skycity's annual fireworks display when he came across not one, but three, drones.

His encounter came around the same time a police chopper had to take evasive action to avoid colliding with another drone that flew within 10m of the aircraft.

Mr Monk said the closest drone he saw flew within 30m of his aircraft and was "too close for comfort".

"It was quite a shock to us all and quite a concern because the implications are huge. Should we have hit it, or it hit us, with that many people in the city and what it could do to the helicopter itself would have been catastrophic."

According to civil aviation rules are not supposed to be flown higher than 122m or closer than 4km from any aerodrome.

Having flown for 50 years, Mr Monk said amateur drone operators breaching the rules was were an increasing problem.

"It's not the professional drone operators. They're not a problem; they know the rules and know how to abide and contact and communicate with the aviation world.

"It's these amateur drone operators who manage to get hold of a drone or get one for Christmas and just believe it's their right to fly however and wherever they want without realising the implications of what would happen should they hit an aircraft of some kind."

He said it was frustrating and people needed to be help responsible for "playing with people's lives".

"It's like sharing a road, we're sharing an airspace and they've got to consider what else is out there and understand the rules."

"I think it's going to take a few people made examples of with a few heavy prosecutions for people to take this seriously."

A Ministry of Transport spokesperson confirmed work was under way to look at potential changes to drone regulations, but said no further details were available at this stage.

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