A DRONE that almost collided with a Westpac rescue helicopter above Broadmeadow earlier this year remains a mystery following an investigation into the near-miss.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has released its final report into the incident, which occurred as the helicopter returned to its base near Hunter Stadium from John Hunter Hospital.
But while the report reveals the burgeoning problems associated with drones, it sheds no light on who was operating the machine that came within 100 metres of the helicopter.
The Newcastle Herald reported in March that the chopper’s crew saw lights about 1000 feet, which they believed were a larger aircraft further away. Instead, they were attached to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) hovering over Hunter Stadium, forcing the chopper to evade it.
The bureau’s report notes no one in the area had received a Notice to Airmen, required for flying a drone above 400 feet.
‘‘A football match had been played at Hunter Stadium that evening. However, no official aerial photography was conducted,’’ the report said.
The report also noted the vehicle, which appeared to ‘‘have a video fixed either inside or outside the UAV, which enables the operator to fly it remotely whilst looking through either a pair of goggles or at a screen’’, was the type involved in 90per cent of drone complaints.
‘‘The picture transmitted back in real time gives the impression to the operator that they are actually sitting inside,’’ the report noted.
‘‘Use of these goggles does not provide line-of-sight vision of the UAV.’’
The March near-miss sparked Australian Certified UAV Operators president Joe Urli to call for greater regulation in the growing sector, which notched up 100 registered operators in May. That figure is more than triple the number of registered operator certificates issued at the beginning of 2013.
Mr Urli said he believed there were many other operators flying drones without proper approvals.
‘‘A brief review of YouTube will swiftly reveal evidence of illegal operations by uncertified operators in Australia,’’ Mr Urli said.
There was little consequence for flying illegally, other than fines.
‘‘We place direct obstacles before those who seek to obtain motor vehicle licences if they have a past record of illegal driving and we need to look at similar measures for UAV certification,’’ Mr Urli said.