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Man fined for crashing drone over police operation in Melbourne

A man has been fined for flying a drone over police during a nine-hour siege in Melbourne after the remotely piloted aircraft hit power lines and almost injured police below.

Image by Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0

A man in Melbourne, Australia has been fined AU$850 after crashing a recreational drone over a police operation and coming close to injuring one of the police officers on the ground.

During a nine-hour police siege in south-west Melbourne the man was flying a "recreational drone" above police before it crashed into power lines and fell to the ground, "narrowly" missing one of the police officers involved in the stand-off below, according to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

The fine was issued by CASA which regulates the use of drones (referred to as Remotely Piloted Aircraft or RPAs by the authority). In this incident, the man was fined for bringing the RPA within 30 metres of people, a contravention of regulations surrounding drone use.

While CASA does not require drone users to carry a permit for flying, it does stipulate a number of rules relating to use including, "keeping drones more than 30 metres from people at all times, not flying over crowds or gatherings of people, not causing a hazard to aircraft and having the drone in line of sight at all times".

According to CASA Director of Aviation Safety, Terry Farquharson, the rules are in place to prevent accidents and injuries when members of the public use drones.

"People who fly drones have a responsibility to know the safety rules and to follow them," he said. "The rules are simple but very important as they keep people safe. If you break the safety rules and CASA has evidence we will investigate and we will take the appropriate action, which may include penalties."

The drone crash follows a similar incident in April this year when a triathlete was injured during a race in Western Australia after a drone filming the event malfunctioned and crashed into her head.

Drone use in Australia is becoming a bigger issue as public use becomes more ubiquitous, with fire fighters calling for drones to be restricted from bush fire areas for safety reasons, and a parliamentary committee warning that Australians face increasing invasions of privacy due to the growing popularity of the remotely piloted aircraft.