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Rule of the drones

Monday, 18th January, 2016

Greg Pope maintaining his drone which costs about $9,000 when it is fully equipped with cameras and accessories. Greg Pope maintaining his drone which costs about $9,000 when it is fully equipped with cameras and accessories.

By Michael Murphy

There’s no reason why humans and drones cannot live together in harmony, says Greg Pope, a man who knows a thing or two about flying machines.

The unmanned aerial vehicles are taking off around the world, limited in use only by people’s imagination, from carrying heat-sensors to track feral animals in the dark to entering radiation-filled “hot zones” where human access is dangerous.

The Silver City’s Greg Pope uses his drone for a business he started up eight months ago, SkyCam Images.

He has already landed a couple of national TV commercials, providing the vehicle for some stunning cinematography.

But he says those who’ve found a drone underneath their Christmas tree, should get informed about their new toy, because there’s risks involved in air flight.

“There’s a few rules that must be followed regarding safety and privacy,” said Greg, who has also been a member of the Broken Hill Model Flying Club for more than 30 years.

“Multi-rotors, or any model aircraft for that matter, have the potential to cause serious injury and in some cases have caused death.

“Safety plays a large part whenever I operate my multi-rotor.”

Greg conducts job safety and risk assessments, and if necessary, gains approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority before takeoff.

Privacy is also another major issue. One local took to social media this month to voice concerns after a drone interrupted a leisurely puff of a cigarette in his backyard.

“If one is hovering over your backyard, especially with cameras on it ... you do have a right to privacy,” Greg said.

He said the Privacy Act needed to be updated with the advent of the new technology, but other laws did come into play.

“People may not be subject to filming or photography where they could reasonably expect a level of privacy,” he said.

“If a drone was filming a person sun-baking in their own backyard, it could be regarded as stalking or harassment.”

Last year, CASA issued 16 infringement notices across Australia to drone operators for various breaches of the law.

Greg said the Broken Hill Model Flying Club was a great avenue for those who want to take to the sky. They have a flying field - a weed-free clay pan - about 2km past the rifle range on the Tibooburra Road.

“What people are doing, they are buying the UAVs, flying them at their local park, usually crashing them, and then they sort of give up from there.

“We can offer assistance with what to buy, train them on how to fly it.

“Usually we will set them up with a buddy box system which means we will have two transmitters so if something does go wrong we can take over immediately.”

Club numbers have dropped from 25 to 14 in the last six years, but the crew that gets out there at the moment was a friendly bunch, Greg said.

“I haven’t lost any drones luckily because they are fairly expensive, and I don’t want to ever crash one, but they aren’t fail-safe, things can go wrong which is why laws are in place.”

For more information, phone Greg on 0428 490 456 or search for Broken Hill Model Flying Club or Skycam Images on Facebook.

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