Rescue helicopters plea for drone users to comply with lockdown limits

While the skies above Auckland may seem quiet during the lockdown, rescue helicopters are urging drone users to stick to the rules. 

Westpac's AW169 helicopter Source: Supplied

According to Alert Level 4 lockdown regulations, drones can only be flown inside the boundaries of a person’s property and to a height of no more than 400 feet. 

Michelle Boag, acting CEO of the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopters (ARHT) says their crew are at risk from both private and commercial drone operators flying outside the boundaries that have been put in place. 

“While we are taking every precaution available to us to protect our crew, patients and families from Covid-19 we are at the mercy of drone operators wanting to capture images of greater Auckland, Coromandel and the Gulf communities during lockdown.” 

In one earlier incident, one of the rescue helicopters experienced a “near-miss” from a rogue drone when taking off to attend a serious car crash in Northland where several patients were in need of help. 

“We certainly don’t need a repeat of that,” says James Tayler who had been piloting the helicopter.

"At times like this, an accident in the air is the last thing our community needs."

According to Mr Tayler, the helicopter had already climbed above 400 feet and was flying at a speed of around 230 kilometres when a drone flew passed a mere three or four metres away. 

Ms Boag says they can’t afford to be placing lives at risk with drone flying outside the strict limits in place during the lockdown.