Drones over city prompt safety fears

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 20/03/2014
no fly zone
NO FLY ZONE: A graphic of the no fly zone over the city.

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Clark Kent is under investigation after posting a drone's eye view of a rugby game at Waikato Stadium on YouTube.

Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Mike Richards said an investigation was under way as to who used the name of Superman's alter ego to post the video of the March 1 game between the Chiefs and the Highlanders the following day.

The video was seen by Waikato Stadium staff and is also under investigation by the Chiefs, who are concerned about the safety of players and spectators should a drone fall from the sky. Such drones have been known to cause serious injury.

Drones typically fly for about an hour before they need recharging.

Murray Jeffrey, director of business development and marketing for the Hamilton City Council's Event Facilities Unit, which includes Waikato Stadium, had not seen the footage.

"However, public safety is paramount and we would be concerned if someone was doing something that puts our patrons at risk."

Chiefs chief executive Andrew Flexman was also worried about the safety of players. "We are very concerned about the issue that has come to light and will be investigating it further with relevant parties. Fan and player safety are paramount considerations for us and we take very seriously any behaviour that may compromise this."

Civil Aviation Authority rule 101.11 says: "A person shall not operate a moored balloon, kite, free balloon, rocket, model aircraft, gyroglider, or parasail in controlled airspace without prior authorisation from the air traffic control unit responsible for that airspace."

The Hamilton City Zone reaches as far as Te Awamutu in the south, north of Eureka, Bruntwood in the east and close to Koromatua in the west.

Outside of the zone radio-controlled aircraft can fly up to a height of 400 feet so long as they remain in the line of sight of the operator. They are not allowed to be flown at night.

Dori Media founder Adam Crouchley, himself under CAA investigation for flying his Phantom 2 drone in the Hamilton City Sector without authorisation from air traffic control at Hamilton Airport, posted a link to the video on his Facebook page on March 2 suggesting somebody else had shot it. He denied shooting the game footage himself.

This week the link to the video was delivering an error message, but YouTube owner Google's global communications and public affairs spokeswoman, Annie Baxter, said the user had set the view to private.

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She would not comment further on the video.

Mr Crouchley's drone has since been stolen in a burglary and the Civil Aviation Authority is yet to reveal the results of its investigation.

Ascend Photography drone pilot Pete Kirby was staggered someone would fly a drone in the city sector at night and considered the act highly dangerous.

"If you sit back and think whether you should be flying these things over people you would say no," he said. "These things do fall out of the sky for no apparent reason and I would be worried about a 10-inch carbon-fibre blade going through somebody's head.

"With these guys, no-one really knows what they are doing and the Civil Aviation Authority are really worried about people's safety."

The problem was young pilots who had no experience or knowledge of the rules.

"Model Flying New Zealand has a wings badge system and what I have suggested to the authority is that you make that mandatory for commercial operators." The badge provides certification of a basic proficiency level for radio control model pilots, enabling them to operate unsupervised and ensures they meet the requirements of Civil Aviation Authority rules.

- Waikato Times

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