'Disgusting': Drone flying near helicopter could have been disastrous

Helicopters Otago chief pilot Graeme Gale, and paramedics Doug Flett and Ian Ridley reflect on what a valuable addition the publicly funded Dunedin hospital helipad has been. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

A ‘‘disgusting’’ and illegal flight by a drone near the Dunedin Hospital helipad last night could have had disastrous consequences for an Otago Rescue Helicopter which had just landed.

Rescue Helicopter Trust chief pilot Graeme Gale said a rescue helicopter pilot had just landed at the helipad when the drone, with a red flashing light was seen, about 20m from the helipad.

‘‘It’s absolutely stupid.’’

Rescue helicopter pilots already had a challenging enough job without having the face the consequences of illegal drone flights, which usually could not be seen from the cockpit.

The drone flight breached Civil Aviation Authority requirements banning any drone flights within four nautical miles of any airport or helicopter landing pad, and could have had disastrous consequences for the the helicopter and all those aboard it.

The pilot had been very concerned about the appearance of the drone, which had been seen for the first time only after the rescue helicopter had landed.

Aircraft could monitor each other through transponders, but helicopter pilots could not see drones, and a drone strike could have disastrous consequences.

The matter had been reported to the police, who were following strong lines of inquiry.

He hoped the police would find those responsible and they would be prosecuted.

‘‘Drones are an issue world-wide,’’ he said.

He was sure the drone had not been flown by a professional user, because they knew the CAA rules and complied with them. 

A Kingsgate Hotel guest said they saw the drone being flown nearby before landing on a balcony of one of the rooms.

They said it looked like the culprit was a very skilled drone operator.

The guest has informed the hotel of what they saw and contacted police.

The Kingsgate Hotel and Otago Rescue Helicopter has been approached for comment.

 - additional reporting NZ Herald







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