My Experience : Surf Rescue Drones

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An introduction into my online journal of what it takes to become a drone pilot.

Drones are fast becoming a part of everyday life and last season, Surf Life Saving Australia in partnership with Westpac started a drone program.

These drones operated by SLSWA employees could be seen at a handful of beaches in the morning patrolling well populated areas. These drones are red and yellow variants of the popular DJI Phantom family of UAVs that dominate the high end consumer drone market.

So why are they there?
The drones are in part contributing the shark mitigation efforts on Western Australian beaches. With the ability to get a view from up to 120m above the surface with live video streamed back to the operator, these drones give operators a unique view at a fraction of the cost of the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Program.

The first season was successful and now the program is being rolled out into local surfclubs to supplement existing patrols starting with UAV operators nominated by their clubs to help kick start training of other patrol members in the seasons to come.

I was fortunate enough to be picked by my club Quinns Mindarie and at the end of 2017 started my training.

The briefing started with the importance of the program and how we are now working with a new regulatory body CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority). The emphasis is that the drone program is entering a phase where it is more important than ever to comply with CASA regulations and failure to do the right thing could put the drone program at risk.

From there we filled in paperwork to register with CASA and commenced our online training covering flight theory, reporting, risk management and flight planning to name a few areas.

With the online test out of the way with the required 100% pass mark, we wait for the next call to continue to the next stage of training.

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