How safe are drones?
Drones are part of our lives. In late 2016 CASA relaxed the regulations governing the use of drones, and now allow their commercial use by unlicensed pilots. There are a number of restrictions that apply, including a limit to the size of drone. However, the most important restrictions aim to prevent accidents involving unwitting bystanders. We should all be much more aware of these restrictions as they are often ignored by unlicensed operators. These “flying cameras” can do a lot of damage. They are dangerous. They can hurt people.
Many popular drones can fall like bricks.
Most drones used by amateurs are known as quad-copters. They rely on 4 battery-powered motors driving 4 propellers. They are operated by remote control and aided by very sophisticated systems, including a compass and GPS technology. But they are not robust. The internet abounds with drone “crash reels”. They are very fragile, able to be disabled in flight by birds, twigs, and power lines, They also fail due to poor maintenance, faults, and very frequently, operator error.
And quad-copters don’t glide.
They just drop.
Drones hit hard.
The highest altitude above the ground drones operated by amateurs are permitted to fly is 120 metres. If a drone fell from this height it would hit the ground at a speed of 174 kph! Even falling from 20 metres it reaches an astonishing 70 kph. These are big numbers.
Later in 2016 CASA will allow untrained operators to commercially fly drones of up to 2 kg in weight.
That's nearly the weight of a common house brick.
Drones should never be flown over your head.
Not surprisingly there are strict rules about where any drone can fly, particularly around people. Generally, drones should be kept more than 30m from a person, measured horizontally. So even when flying high, were a drone to fall it should not impact nearer than this 30m buffer.
Despite this, it’s scary how often we see drones flown over unsuspecting families at beaches. This is simply not allowed.
These drone operators don't want to hurt anyone, they are probably just not aware of the rules or the risks. A quiet word should be enough to encourage them to fly more safely.