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Space invaders – danger drone flies too close to crowded kids’ playground

By Brad Watts 26 June 2018 14
The playful sounds of Black Mountain Peninsula playground were drowned out by a drone being flown at high speed near children. Photo: Brad Watts.

The playful sounds of Black Mountain Peninsula playground were drowned out by a drone being flown at high speed near children. Photo: Brad Watts.

A trip to the playground at the park with your children is normally an enjoyable and peaceful experience.

But this tranquillity and fun recently turned to terror when a space invader from the sky starting whizzing above.
The normally serene and playful sounds of Black Mountain Peninsula playground were drowned out by a whizzing and fizzing from a drone being flown at high speed.

The small, alien-like aircraft was darting between trees and rising and falling within centimetres of the ground with little regard for the dozens of children playing nearby on swings, slides and with balls.

As a concerned parent, I quickly moved my children away from within the frenetic fly-zone and soon the drone attracted the ire of other finger-pointing parents.

“Gee that drone is flying really fast and close to the kids,” said one concerned parent as they looked towards the sky.

Fortunately, there was an ACT Park Ranger – dressed in a dark green uniform – nearby who I spoke to about the airborne intruder being piloted by a man sitting in a deck chair behind his car in the carpark.

“I saw that drone and it seems very close to the playground and kids,” the ranger said. “But unfortunately, in the ACT, I can’t do much about it – I wish I could!”

It is disappointing that there currently are no local laws governing drones flying within metres of children’s playgrounds in public parks and open spaces.

The troublesome drone was being piloted by a man sitting in a deck chair in the public car park. Photo: Brad Watts.

The troublesome drone was being piloted by a man sitting in a deck chair in the public car park. Photo: Brad Watts.

The ACT Government’s website directs people to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) website on drone activity.

The CASA laws on recreational drone flying include:

  • You must not fly your drone within 30 metres of people unless the other person is part of controlling or navigating the drone
  • You must not fly over or above people. This could include festivals, sporting ovals, populated beaches, parks, busy roads and footpaths
  • You must not operate your drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person, or property
  • You must only fly during the day and keep your drone within visual line-of-sight.

According to these strict regulations, the drone and his pilot was clearly breaching national air safety rules, especially flying in a busy recreational area.

While the pilot seemed almost oblivious to others around him, it highlighted the urgent need for better policing of these regulations including at a Territory level.

I agree if people want to fly drones (and at high speed), they can do so in a more private area and follow the safety rules outlined by airline regulators.

However, if someone is going to fly these space invaders in crowded public areas where children are present, there needs to be an urgent crackdown on this dangerous behaviour.

CASA has warned flyers “there might be local council and/or national park laws prohibiting drone flights in certain areas”.

Let’s hope with further education, common sense for others and better policing of regulations, that drone flyers can enjoy their topsy-turvy past-time in a safer environment.

And parents can go back to enjoying watching their children on the peaceful playground.

Do you think there should be local laws introduced about drones flying near children?

What’s Your opinion?


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14 Responses to
Space invaders – danger drone flies too close to crowded kids’ playground
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Tim Cole 11:17 am 27 Jun 18

Get one of those rifles that just shoots high-pressure compressed air. It'll knock the drone out of the sky

Jennifer Jones 11:09 am 27 Jun 18

They can't police grubby dog owners, dangerous driving, filthy diesel vehicles, the list goes on. Who is going to police drones?

bigred 7:32 am 27 Jun 18

Seriously, why didn’t the concerned parents approach the operator and ask them to desist on public safety grounds? A few annoyed fathers, in my experience, can be quite persuasive when there is anti social behaviour going on in a park or reserve.

    Capital Retro 12:16 pm 27 Jun 18

    What? And risk “drone rage”

    Brad Watts 1:36 pm 27 Jun 18

    As a concerned father, I did think about approaching the drone flyer but I was more concerned about protecting my children’s safety. I agree that if there’s a groundswell of aggrieved parents involved, change and reform normally occurs. Let’s hope we can keep these ‘space invaders’ in check in future?!

Lynne Audsley 11:28 pm 26 Jun 18

It works if someone reports it, then the authorities actually do something about it.

Jenni Zimoch 10:56 pm 26 Jun 18

How do you police it though?

Louise Fitzgerald 10:17 pm 26 Jun 18

So much regulation in the ACT - a cat can't roam in Forde - but a drone operator can be unlicensed amidst concerns of injury, privacy, and risk of entering airspace and bringing down a plane. Does not make sense.

Annie Wyer 9:37 pm 26 Jun 18

That’s almost sinister in intent - spying on young kids....is this the new child abuse...?

whoaman 9:23 pm 26 Jun 18

It’s a concern that drones are flying near children. Not only is it dangerous, but it attracts the child’s attention. This drone could have even been filming children. How can we be sure that a drone operator isn’t a sex offender or have *those* kinds of motives?? Drones are a privacy concern especially to children.

    Loviatar 6:31 pm 28 Jun 18

    You can’t. In much the same way that you can’t be certain that people on their phones also aren’t perverts trying to film your kids. Or that the elderly couple feeding the ducks don’t have sinister motives.

Lauryn Roberts 8:37 pm 26 Jun 18

Report to CASA. There are rules!

Chele Forest 8:25 pm 26 Jun 18

You think drones are noisy, you should hear kids.

Jon 4:27 pm 26 Jun 18

Why do we need to have local laws introduced when there are existing laws that aren’t being enforced now? This man in the deck chair should have been identified (photographed and license recorded by the ranger), and the matter referred to CASA.

“Unfortunately I can’t do anything about it” is complete nonsense, when a simple check of the CASA website indicates that drone violations can be reported to them for further investigation:

From the website “Please provide photographic/video evidence showing the possible safety breach. If this footage does not clearly display the individual operating the drone/RPA, further evidence may be required.”

and: “We take all reports of unsafe drone/RPA operations seriously. Providing sufficient evidence is available, we will investigate the incident further and where appropriate, take enforcement action.”

What’s the point of having additional local laws when there are ALREADY laws in place that can be used (but aren’t).

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