'It has the potential to get worse': Mid-air incidents involving drones increases
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'It has the potential to get worse': Mid-air incidents involving drones increases

According to Mark Will, there's only one guarantee when it comes to flying drones: at some point, they're going to be crashed.

Having flown drones for almost two years, he also runs a "drone boot camp", which teaches new users how to safely fly the aircraft.

Mark Will said more information should be provided to drone users in order to prevent crashes or near misses with aircraft.

Mark Will said more information should be provided to drone users in order to prevent crashes or near misses with aircraft.Credit:Rohan Thomson

However, as the technology becomes more accessible, Mr Will said he was worried there would be an increasing number of incidents such as drones coming into close contact with planes or flying into restricted airspace.

"My concern is that there's inexperienced hobbyists flying with no regulations," he said.

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Mark Will runs courses on drone flying and safety.

Mark Will runs courses on drone flying and safety. Credit:Rohan Thomson

"It has the potential to get worse the more they become normal in the market."

Mr Will's comments follow a recent report released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau of mid-air incidents involving drones.

Between 2012 and 2016, more than half of all drone incidents involved near misses with aircraft and more than 60 per cent of those happened in 2016.

It's predicted there will be a 75 per cent increase in the number of drones being involved in near misses with aircrafts in 2017, with the report finding the number of incidents involving drones "increasing exponentially".

Most of the incidents happened in capital cities, with Sydney accounting for 37 per cent of all near misses between drones and aircraft.

The rest of the incidents involved the drones crashing into the ground, either from a loss of control, bird strikes or engine failures.

The report did not specify how many incidents happened in Canberra, however, data from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority found two had occurred in the capital during the last year.

One involved a complaint after a drone was seen flying over a Canberra house, while another drone user was fined $900 for crashing his drone at the Australian War Memorial.

Drone users are not allowed to fly within 5.5 kilometres of an airport, and cannot be flown higher than 120 metres or within 30 metres of a building.

Restrictions also apply to flying drones over crowds of people.

Other restricted airspaces in Canberra also include the Majura Army Range as well as the Mills Cross Radio Telescope.

Mr Will said more information should be provided to drone users in order to prevent crashes or near misses with aircraft.

"We should consider drone ownership like dog ownership or a car licence. You as the user have to equip yourself with the knowledge and information," he said.

"An airport is defined as an area with aircraft taking off and landing, so in theory you can't fly within 5.5 kilometres of the South Care base in Hume or Canberra Hospital."

While no aircraft have been hit by a drone in Australia, Mr Will said the outcome could be disastrous if a plane was struck.

Andrew Brown is a journalist at the Sunday Canberra Times. Andrew has worked at the Canberra Times since 2016.

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