CASA
CASA warned operators to stay clear of airports in affected regions

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has issued a strict warning to drone operators flying around airports in the regions affected by Cyclone Debbie in New South Wales and Queensland, ordering them to stay clear of the routes being used by emergency air services.

Drone pilots scrambled to get footage of the destruction left by cyclone Debbie, subsequently posting it on social media or using it for news clips.

CASA has said that emergency aircraft and crews are at risk due to the drones flying around close to the airports. A number of close-calls have been reported.

Many emergency crews have faced the interference of drones in forest fires, traffic accidents and weather-affected areas.

According to CASA, if a drone posed a hazard to an aircraft by interfering with the airport landing or take off paths, it registers as an offence under its Regulations.

The Aviation law states that without a permit, commercial drones are prohibited from flying within 5.5 kilometres of an operational airport. Failure to conform will result in a hefty fine.

The laws also pertain to areas in which aircraft may be flying, such as the Yarra river in the Melbourne CBD, where a man flying his drone close to the helicopter zone faced a fine of almost $1000.

Violators can expect fines ranging from $900 to $9000, according to CASA.

Even though commercial airlines are not operating on the airports in the affected zones, they are now being used by emergency and medical services aircraft.