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Monday, June 2, 2014

Australian Incident Highlights UAV Dangers

ATSB investigates a Bell 412 rescue helicopter's close call with an unidentified unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

By Emma Kelly, Australia and Pacific Correspondent

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released its final report into a near miss involving a Bell 412 Westpac rescue helicopter and an unidentified unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), highlighting the dangers of UAVs operating above 400 feet without approval.

The incident occurred in late March at 2200 hours (10:00 pm) when the Westpac helicopter took off from John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, New South Wales, for a 2-nm flight to the Newcastle Westpac helipad with five crew members onboard. Released in late May, the final report states that heading to the northeast and climbing to 1,200 feet above ground level, the helicopter pilot saw a steady white light in the vicinity of Williamtown Airport, about 10 nm away. The light then crossed quickly from left to right and tracked southeast away from the helicopter. About 10 to 15 seconds later, the pilot saw the light make an abrupt right turn and track toward the helicopter. Due to the rate and radius of the turn, the pilot concluded it was a small UAV. On descent to the helipad, the UAV hovered in position just above the helicopter.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority says the UAV in this incident was most likely a first person view UAV, with a video fixed inside or outside the UAV allowing the operator to fly it remotely whilst looking through a pair of goggles or at a screen. CASA says these UAVs account for more than 90 percent of all complaints received about UAVs. CASA points out that UAVs are restricted to operations below 400 feet AGL unless the operator has been granted approval.

Related: Safety and Training News

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