ATSB's Chief Pilot Approved to Fly Drones

The Australian safety agency already has taken advantage by taking investigative video with its drone after a loaded coal train derailed in Queensland on July 21, 2017.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau's Chief Commissioner Greg Hood and Transport Safety Investigation Manager Derek Hoffmeister have received a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operator's Certificate through the country's Civil Aviation Safety Authority, meaning they are authorized to fly drones while investigating transportation accidents in the field.

The certificate was presented by CASA acting CEO/Director of Aviation Safety Graeme Crawford. It authorizes flying drones that weigh up to seven kilograms.

Hoffmeister has also been granted Chief Remote Pilot status by CASA after passing the required flying test and an interview, and ATSB already has taken advantage by taking investigative video with its drone after a loaded coal train derailed in Queensland on July 21, 2017.

"The [drone] brings significant capability to our investigations," Hoffmeister said. "Investigators are now able to undertake an initial site survey to check for safety hazards before entering the site, and we can perform site mapping more quickly and with more accurate measurements. Also, comprehensive photos of an entire accident site can help investigations enormously. We can capture that imagery ourselves using [the drone] – imagery that could previously only be obtained with a helicopter."

Hood said the agency has been monitoring the potential benefits of drones for a number of years, and now they are equipped with software and capable of high-fidelity resolution photography for site safety assessment and site and debris mapping.

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