Drones used in fire coverage

News agencies used drones equipped with high-definition cameras to capture footage of the devastation wrought by the NSW bushfires.

Trained operators flew two six-kilogram ‘multicopters’ around the fire-ravaged Springwood area on Friday.

“We can get anywhere from ground level to 400 feet,” said High Alpha Media director Ben Lodge.

“A helicopter can’t even get into those areas.”

Drones used by news wires in order to get footage of the NSW Bushfires photo credit: AAP

Drones used by news wires in order to get footage of the NSW Bushfires photo credit: AAP

The drones, each propelled by six rotors, are usually used to film TV adverts and programs.

The bushfires represent one of the first times the drones have been used in newsgathering, in an exclusive partnership with national news agency, Australian Associated Press.

Mr Lodge predicted drones would be a “game-changer” for Australian news.

They can fly for 15 minutes at a time and withstand winds of up to 40 km/h. The camera is stabilised with a specialised pivoted support called a gimble.

On the ground, a pilot controls the drone using two joysticks, while a cameraman directs the lens.

However, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has warned about the use of amateur drones in bushfire coverage, saying they could interfere with fire-fighting helicopters and planes.

It has asked media outlets not to use footage captured by amateur drones.

Mr Lodge said High Alpha Media always followed CASA regulations, which prohibited drones being used within three nautical miles of an airport, above 400ft, or near roads.

He said the company’s drone operators were properly-accredited pilots.

Australian Associated Press editor-in-chief Tony Gillies said the organisation supported the use of drones in newsgathering only where it was safe and in accordance with CASA regulations.


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