Drones flown in helicopter flight path at Franz Josef heliport 'a huge risk' to safety, police warn

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1 NEWS

Drones being flown in the helicopter flight path at Franz Josef's heliport have prompted a warning from police that the practice could result in fines of up to $35,000.

Franz Josef glacier

Source: 1 NEWS

A man decided to fly a drone recreationally at 300 to 400 metres in the flight path at the Glacier Country Heliport about midday yesterday, said Constable Brent Whittington.

Police received a report of this from the heliport manager who was extremely concerned as aircraft arrive at the heliport regularly and the drone was being flown directly over the landing pads, he said.

The drone user had no knowledge of the controlled airspace or rules surrounding the operation of drones, and had not sought authorisation from the property owner to use the drone in this area, Constable Whittington said.

It was the second time people flying drones inappropriately have been spoken to by police in one week, he said.

On top of that another four sightings had been noted by members of the public in the two weeks leading up to yesterday's incident.

On this occasion, the drone was stopped before it caused any problems, police spoke to the man and he was given a formal warning.

Glacier Country Heliport is one of the busiest heliports in New Zealand, with up to 15 helicopters operating at any one time. 

"Our whole community needs the heliport to operate safely and the unauthorised use of drones is potentially a huge risk to that," Constable Whittington said. 

The heliport is taking steps to prevent drone flight in the danger zones, including installing signs on the state highways and heliport perimeter to help raise awareness.

Heliport manager Vicky Whittington told 1 NEWS NOW safety is paramount and drones are not welcome.

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