Serious aviation accident investigation necessary given injuries sustained in Geraldton UAV accident

ACUO

The Australian Certified UAV Operators Association (ACUO) welcomes today’s confirmation by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) that it has launched a serious accident investigation into the circumstances surrounding the reported injuring of a female triathlete by an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) in Geraldton over the weekend.

The alleged operator of the UAV was not the holder of a CASA UAV Operator Certificate (UOC).

ACUO’s own research conducted today indicates the alleged operator has been active for some time, following several claims by the alleged operator in media interviews, including with the West Australian regional media in March 2013 to be a CASA certificate holder. See paragraphs 27 and 28 of the following article from Farm Weekly, 29 March 2013:

http://www.farmweekly.com.au/news/agriculture/machinery/general-news/wa-farm-takes-to-the-sky/2652354.aspx?storypage=0

We are also concerned that imagery posted on the alleged operators Facebook page suggests a standing pattern of questionable operations which we trust the CASA investigation will closely assess for compliance.

ACUO can confirm that the alleged operator of the UAV was not, nor has ever attempted to become, a member of our organisation. ACUO can also confirm that we have today acted to ensure CASA is aware of the alleged operator’s previous claims to be a certified operator as part of the matters arising from the weekend’s appalling accident.

“What happened during the Endure Batavia Triathlon must be fully investigated” says Joe Urli, President of ACUO.

“The very act of flying a UAV low over the head of members of the public is a direct breach of Part 101 of the Australian Civil Aviation Regulations which clearly mandates a minimum separation of 30 meters.”

“The circumstances by which the air vehicle came to be in close proximity with the triathlete and the subsequent events culminating in her being physically injured is not acceptable by any standards of professional airmanship.”

“To the female triathlete ACUO says this: We are appalled by what happened to you at the weekend. We believe you are entitled to a full explanation as to how and why the accident happened. We are sorry that the apparent actions of an uncertified operator have caused you injury and pain. As a peak industry body we will do all we can to ensure that no person has to again endure the events as experienced by you.”

ACUO regards CASA’s launch of an investigation into this accident as a welcome step towards resolving the ongoing problem of illegal operators in Australia.

ACUO last week called for greater resources for the aviation regulator and a significant increase in the penalties for individuals and organisations found guilty of operating a UAV without CASA certification.

The Geraldton accident follows two separate incidents involving an airliner and a UAV at Perth airport, and a Westpac rescue helicopter with a UAV at Newcastle during March this year.

ACUO’s position on illegal operations has been documented as part of our recent submission to the Federal Government’s review of Aviation Safety Regulations, with this available here:

ACUO’s specific recommendations to the Aviation Safety Regulation Review comprise:

1. CASA needs to rethink and rework its current enforcement procedures applying to the ‘unmanned’ sector of aviation, so that; acuo-pr-04-2014

· They are entirely workable and cost-effective to administer and deliver across the ‘unmanned’ sector of aviation, as well as the rest of the aviation industry.
· They provide an immediate, positive and strong deterrent value to illegal UAV operations.

2. CASA Enforcement procedures for the ‘unmanned’ sector of aviation should be considered in conjunction with a nation-wide awareness campaign to inform and educate the public and industry about the do’s and don’ts of RPAS operations in Australia, and the safety/regulatory/legal basis for having regulations.

· There needs to be a re-focus of attention by CASA on the illegal UAV operators, not the certified UAV operators as is currently the case.

· There needs to be a strong focus on ‘DETERRENCE’ and getting the message across: “If you breach the aviation regulations, you will pay the penalties”.

· There also needs to be a clear distinction between military and civil RPAS experience when qualifying and operating RPAS. Military experience needs to be assessed for; Category, Technical and Operational competence and relevance. Military RPAS operations do not directly correlate with commercial RPAS operations.

3. That the penalties for illegal UAV operations should include:

· Increased fines representative of the sort of money they are earning from their illegal activities [i.e. thousands of dollars, not hundreds] and this should increase exponentially with subsequent prosecutions.

· Automatic confiscation of UAV equipment and if necessary, CASA sell or auction the confiscated equipment to offset the costs of enforcement.

· An automatic 12 month ban on applying for a UAV certificate or licence after a successful prosecution for illegal UAV operations.

4. That the revised UAV regulations include a provision that makes it illegal for an uncertified UAV operator to publicly advertise their services

· A similar provision is written into CAR88 regulations [CAR210] making it illegal for anyone to advertise for [conventional] Aerial Work Operations without an AOC

· The same should be true for commercial UAV Operators also.

The full ACUO submission to the review can be downloaded here: http://www.acuo.org.au/ACUO%20submission%20to%20the%20ASRR%20-%20Final.pdf

The Australian Association of UAV Operations (ACUO) is Australia’s premier industry association representing CASA certified unmanned aircraft operators.

For further information, please contact:

Joe Urli
President
ACUO
Email: [email protected]

Brad Mason
Secretary
ACUO
Email: [email protected]