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May 26, 2014

Drone just missed turbo-prop over Perth military airspace

The ATSB has been unable to identify an object, believed to be a drone, that passed very close to a Skippers Aviation 50 seat Dash 8-300 turbo-prop just above military airspace near

From the Skippers brochure, about its Bombardier Dash 8-300

The ATSB has been unable to identify an object, believed to be a drone, that passed very close to a Skippers Aviation 50 seat Dash 8-300 turbo-prop just above military airspace near Perth in March.

This is its necessarily brief report into what it ranks as a ‘serious incident’.

On 19 March 2014, at about 0913 Western Standard Time (WST), a De Havilland DHC-8, registered VH-XFX, was on approach to Perth Airport from Kambalda, Western Australia. When about 23 km north-northeast of Perth, at about 3,800 ft above mean sea level (AMSL), the crew sighted a bright strobe light directly in front of the aircraft.

The light appeared to track towards the aircraft and the crew realised that the light was on an unknown object, possibly an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The pilot took evasive action turning towards the west to avoid a collision with the object. The object passed about 20 m horizontally and 100 ft vertically from the aircraft.

The pilot reported that the object was cylindrical in shape and grey in colour. It was at about 3,700 ft AMSL and in controlled airspace. The crew did not receive a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) alert. The airspace below 3,500 ft AMSL was military restricted airspace.

The ATSB was advised that the Australian Defence Force was not operating UAVs and was not aware of any UAV operations in the area at the time of the incident. The ATSB was not able to confirm the details of the object or identify any UAV operator in the area at that time.

UAVs are increasingly available to recreational operators and their operation outside of the regulations may pose a significant risk to aviation safety.

The first point that leaps off the page is the altitude of the encounter. This is much higher that many of the increasingly popular and inexpensive personal drones are said to fly.

It is also unusual in that it was emitting bright strobe lighting, which isn’t something seen at the popular, or what some term, the invasive and nuisance end of the market.

This suggests a somewhat heavier and more capable drone, definitely not one operating as a stealthy object, yet one sufficiently sophisticated to be flown with great accuracy, and costing more than small change.

In short, the operator of this object should have been very aware of where it was, and to have deliberately flown it into controlled civilian airspace, above military airspace, something that ought to be of real concern to defence as well as aircraft operators and AirServices Australia.

Nor is it suggested they are unconcerned. The public, courtesy of the ATSB,  has been given reason to share in any such concerns.

The object seems to have been well above the 2kg weight line below which CASA is proposing that it not regulate drones.


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4 thoughts on “Drone just missed turbo-prop over Perth military airspace

  1. t fal

    No surprises here after last weeks article. CASA needs to do more with these drones. A petition has been set up here to be against CASA proposal to not regulate them

  2. derrida derider

    Que t_fal? The article makes it clear this object was way above the 2kg limit below which CASA sensibly has assessed the risk as essentially non-existent. One under that limit would certainly not have reached that place, and would not be cause for much panic if it did.

    No one is proposing not to regulate larger beasts such as this.

  3. t fal

    There are plenty of easy modifications for a bright strobe light on consumer UAVs. I quick google search brought up these videos.

    There is also plenty of examples of people taking these consumer UAVs well past 4,000ft.

    If it was above 2kg then it would have been a certified UAV operator who would have had the training to know not to be there.

  4. Dan Dair

    As per the earlier discussion page,
    I reiterate that it should be illegal to purchase, either wholesale, retail or on import, any UAV or UAV kit which does NOT contain basic instructions for use on the box or CLEARLY written in Plain English on leaflet within the box.

    If this was the law. most of the ‘yahoos’ involved in this kind of activity would think again & those that didn’t would have no grounds to complain when their house was taken off them & their wife & children sold to the highest bidders, as part of a compensation package for their victims.!!!

    The vast numbers of UAV’s that are likely to be ‘floating about’ over the next few years can’t realistically be properly managed by any regulatory board, so the onus will be on the user.
    To achieve this, there must be a ‘fool-proof’ system in place which ensures that users know the consequences of not following the rules
    And if they don’t follow them, they are made an example of, to remind the other users of these consequences.