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Quick, call the police!

13 February 2019

Here's some silliness I thought I'd never see...

In This ODT story about a drone being taken from a Chinese tourist after he was seen flying near a hangar at Fox Glacier, a ludicrous statement has been made.

"Police advise that anyone spotting drones near airports or aircraft bases should ring 111"

Seriously?

Does that mean, that as someone who flies a drone *at* an airport with full legal permission to do so, I'm going to get endless visits from the cops every time someone sees me engaged in my lawful activities?

Now the ODT is one of the country's better news publishers but it seems that even they have gotten hooked up in the anti-drone hysteria and they've also forgotten that, thanks to the internet, their readership extends far beyond the local area they used to service with their printed edition.

I expect that the police's advice applies only to the Fox Glacier area, where drones have proven to be an occasional problem due to the number of helicopter flights that take place there.

However, the online edition of the ODT can be read around the country (indeed, around the world) so not to qualify the police statement properly is just creating a lunatic situation.

Or maybe the police really are inviting people to dial the 111 emergency number every time they see someone flying a drone "near" an airport or place where aircraft are based.

It should be noted that not all airfields are a "no-go" area for drones so the paper's use of the term "aircraft bases" is misleading. There are many small private and agricultural airfields that do not qualify for the 4Km exclusion zone that "listed" airfields have. Of course the public are not going to know the difference and I fear that the cops may end up being needlessly annoyed by a string of 111 calls from concerned citizens who see a small drone being flown quite safely and legally by other members of the public.

It's also worth remembering that you *can* fly a drone right up to the boundary of an airport, so long as it's done as a "shielded operation" and you have the permission of the property owner.

Once again one has to wonder if the 111 system will be inundated with calls from the public if little Johnny takes his toy drone down to the park a few Km from the local airfield and flies under the trees in full compliance with council bylaws and CAA regulations.

What can we learn from the ODT's article?

Firstly, it's very easy for a provincial newspaper to forget that it is no longer publishing *only* to people in its own geographical area.

Secondly if, through your news pages, you're inviting people to call the 111 emergency number, be damned sure that you've qualified the exact circumstances under which such calls should be made. You don't want someone dying because answering bona fide emergency call is delayed due to a dozen or more people reporting a toy in a park somewhere.

It seems that the ODT is not the only offender with this story. Newsie published this version which is actually better (IMHO) than the ODT one because it contains more relevant information and acknowledges that the 4Km exclusion does have exceptions. Even they however, include the general call to action "if a drone is spotted near airports or aircraft bases".

I can't help but wonder why CAA hasn't followed through on my suggestion (which they acknowledged was an *excellent* one) to put a QR code up at all the ports of entry to NZ so that incoming tourists can download a copy of the rules regarding drone use while they are in the country. I guess, when you're sucking off the public teat, it's always easier to blame others for their ignorance than it is to actually get off your chuffs and do your job properly.

CAA could also do with some decent advice on how to use social media. It seems they think that all you have to do to reach the tourists headed to NZ is put a video up on YouTube. Well some of these drone-rule videos have been up for months now and yet have received only a few dozen views. You'd think they'd be banging on my door (since I don't charge for my time or advice) and seeing whether I could offer any assistance -- but that doesn't seem to be the way that the public service works here in NZ. Better to blunder on without help and end up with a very poor outcome.

Don't get me wrong, there are some really good people working at CAA these days (I know, I've had coffee with some of them) but the "quality" seems to diminish the further you ascend the ladder of authority and I doubt anything will change at the very top any time soon.

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