The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is leading by example by securing a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operator’s Certificate through the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
The Certificate, which was presented to ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood and Transport Safety Investigation Manager Derek Hoffmeister on Friday 21 July by CASA acting Chief Executive Officer / Director of Aviation Safety Graeme Crawford, means the agency now has the necessary approvals to gather data and evidence during its on-site investigations using Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), up to seven kilograms.
Mr Hoffmeister has also been granted Chief Remote Pilot status by CASA, after passing the required flying test and interview. The ATSB has already taken advantage of these qualifications—capturing investigative footage via its RPAS after a loaded coal train derailed between Oakey and Jondaryan in Queensland late last Friday 21 July 2017.
The Chief Pilot is just one of several transport safety investigators now qualified to fly the DJI Phantom 4, which has been assessed as most suitable for the ATSB’s RPAS operations. The investigators have received a thorough grounding in theory and practical training.
“The RPAS brings significant capability to our investigations,” Mr Hoffmeister said. “Investigators are now able to undertake an initial site survey to check for safety hazards before entering the site, and we can perform site mapping more quickly and with more accurate measurements. Also, comprehensive photos of an entire accident site can help investigations enormously. We can capture that imagery ourselves using RPAS – imagery that could previously only be obtained with a helicopter.”
Chief Commissioner Greg Hood said the agency has been monitoring the potential benefits of RPAS for a number of years, however it was only recently that advances in technology made this a viable option for the ATSB.
“RPAS are now software-equipped and capable of high-fidelity resolution photography enabling accident site safety assessment, and site and debris mapping,” Mr Hood said.
“While the size of our RPAS is below the threshold for an Operator’s Certificate, we are ensuring that we operate under CASA’s regulatory framework in the safest possible manner by gaining the qualification.
People who are flying RPAS commercially should follow the lead of the ATSB and gain their Remote Pilot Operator’s Certificate, regardless of the size of the RPAS they’re using.
“The use of RPAS compared to traditional site survey techniques, equipment and software also presents a substantial cost saving and ease-of-use benefits to the ATSB.”
In addition to building its RPAS capability, the ATSB is also conducting research and data analysis into this emerging technology to assess the safety risk to aircraft. There have been a number of ‘encounters” between RPAS and fixed and rotary winged aircraft, which is a focus of the ATSB.
“Around the world, RPAS can be procured at many retail outlets, including supermarkets and post offices; and are utilised for both pleasure and work-related purposes,” Mr Hood said. “I urge those who have procured an RPAS or are interested in doing so to educate themselves on the CASA regulations.”
“People who are flying RPAS commercially should follow the lead of the ATSB and gain their Remote Pilot Operator’s Certificate, regardless of the size of the RPAS they’re using. This will afford them the flexibility and preparedness to fly any kind of drone or deal with any changes to rules or regulations.”
Recreational drone flyers should also be conscious of the regulations, and take advantage of CASA’s free Can I fly there? smartphone app.
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Media enquiries: 1800 020 616 or ATSBInfo@atsb.gov.auLast update 25 July 2017