Drone halts festival fireworks display

The radio frequency used to control the drone had interfered with the remote control system for the 2018 Winterfest fireworks display. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The radio frequency used to control the drone had interfered with the remote control system for the fireworks display. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

Radio interference caused by a drone forced Friday’s Queenstown Winter Festival fireworks display to pause for a couple of minutes while organisers went looking for the culprit.

Queenstown Lakes harbourmaster Marty Black said the pyrotechnic display over Queenstown Bay started with "three or four shots" before being paused while people went looking for the drone’s operator.

That person, whom he understood was a visitor to the resort, was tracked down and told to ground the drone, which had been flying "quite close" inside the bay.

The fireworks display then resumed without any further hitches.

Mr Black said that the radio frequency used to control the drone had interfered with the remote control system for the fireworks display.

"It’s a bit unusual."

Festival director Rae Baker would only confirm a drone was "in our air space", and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was dealing with the matter.

CAA senior communications adviser Philippa Lagan told the Otago Daily Times she had only become aware of the incident through media inquiries, and was unable to confirm the incident had been reported to the authority.

Its rules require organisers of pyrotechnic displays and light shows held within 18km of a controlled aerodrome to provide it with five days’ notice.

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