SA Country Fire Service

Media release

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Aircraft grounded if drones detected


If drones are spotted during a bushfire all aviation operations will cease, potentially causing increased damage to properties, as well as giving the owner a fine of up to $9,000.

Now that the Fire Danger Season has officially begun, SA Country Fire Service is reminding remotely piloted aircraft (drone) owners not to fly near a fire ground.

CFS Manager State Aviation Operations David Pearce said given the right circumstance, even a small drone, can bring down a helicopter or aeroplane, so CFS will not take that risk.

"Numerous times this year the use of unauthorised drones meant all aircraft were grounded in the United States hampering the firefighting effort," Mr Pearce said.

"Our aircraft support firefighters on the ground by helping to suppress, but it also helps us to identify assets which may be under threat."

"Flying a drone means you not only put the aircrew's lives in danger, but also the lives of the firefighters, and the people and property they're trying to protect."

Due to the low-flying nature of firebombing activities, there is a strict 5 nm (9.2 km) exclusion zone for all unauthorised aircraft around bushfires. Breaching this exclusion zone, or interfering with aerial firefighting, is illegal, and can carry heavy fines if you are found guilty.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is working closely with the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) and state-based firefighting services to help raise awareness around the dangers of drone operators flying near bushfire-affected areas.

For more information on rules surrounding the use of drones visit

David Pearce will be available for comment today at 11.30am at the Woodside Airbase. For more information please call the Media Unit on 08 8212 9849.

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Media information
For media enquiries call the CFS Media Line on 08 8115 3531.

Government of South Australia