Drones have impacted rescue helicopters operating at Lismore Base Hospital's helipad.
Drones have impacted rescue helicopters operating at Lismore Base Hospital's helipad. Contributed

'Foolish' drone use has potential to crash rescue chopper

INVESTIGATIONS are under way after a drone disrupted emergency chopper flights at Lismore base Hospital twice in the past week.

Lismore Base Hospital and Rescue Queensland Helicopter Service crews were working quickly to prepare a "seriously ill child" for an emergency flight to Brisbane when the drone interrupted the flight on Friday.

Richmond Police District made a dramatic call via social media at the time.

"Unfortunately, someone is flying a drone near the helicopter and it can't take off," the post read.

"Police are on the way to the area and will take a dim view of anyone foolish enough to fly a drone near a helicopter."

A spokesperson for the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service, which services NSW missions, confirmed there was a similar incident on Thursday at Lismore Base Hospital which affected one of their aircrafts.

Although it's impossible to know if the same drone affected both missions, the spokesperson said the issue has been reported to NSW Police.

"It seems to be when the chopper comes in to land at Lismore Base Hospital a drone seems to pop up to see what's going on," he said.

He said a drone strike in the helicopter had the potential to cause serious damage and even bring the aircraft down.

"If drones come in contact with the rotors it can cause damage and the possibility of crashing the aircraft. With a rotary wing helicopter you've got moving blades at the top and the rear which controls a lot of the activity with take-off and landing situations.

"If we have a patient on-board and all of a sudden aircraft gets hit by a drone...there's a possibility of staff and patients to become in a bad situation.

"If you own and operate a drone don't fly within area of hospitals, helipads, and airfields."

By the time the child was secured and taken to the aircraft on Friday, NSW Police had been alerted and the drone had disappeared so the mission wasn't delayed from the doctor's point of view, according to the source.

CASA warns drone operators to not operate near emergency services aircraft - if you fly, they can't.

Enforcement action could be a consequence of not abiding by regulations, including large fines and possible jail time.

Richmond Police District has warned: "Drones are legal but comply with the rules. Common sense should tell you not to fly near a helicopter."



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