Drone targets Singapore Airlines A350

Drone targets Singapore Airlines A350

Geoffrey Thomas - Editor-in-Chief

06 Apr 2017

A drone has flown close to an A350 performing an flyby in Perth, Australia

Singapore Airlines A350 flies past a drone. Credit Daniel Kitlar of DK and CK Photos

Singapore Airlines A350 flies past a drone. Credit Daniel Kitlar of DK and CK Photos

The future of low level plane fly-pasts in Australia is in jeopardy after a drone came within an alleged 300ft of a Singapore Airlines A350 on Wednesday afternoon in Perth. 

Singapore Airlines, celebrating its 50th year of operating to Perth launched an online photographic competition of its new A350 and had publicized the air route and altitude of the fly-past.

The dramatic picture taken by Daniel Kitlar of DK and CK Photos was shot from the Mend Street jetty in South Perth and captures the drone approaching the A350 as it flew over Heirisson Island.

Mr Kitlar, an experienced drone operator, said he was stunned when he reviewed his photos later to see the drone.

“In my experience, that drone would have to been at 1200ft and the A350 was flying at 1500ft," said Mr Kitlar.

And the angle that the photo was taken related to the flightpath confirms that height assessment. 

Drone enthusiasts reported that two people were illegally operating a DJI Phantom 4 drone with a camera attached from Langley Park adjacent to the flightpath of the A350.

When challenged that they were operating outside regulations for height they hurled abuse.

Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson said that the perpetrators could face a fine of AUD$9000 for operating the drone above 400ft in controlled airspace.

“There are clear safety rules covering the operation of drones and stiff penalties for breaking these rules.”

“Drones must never be flown in a way that causes a hazard to an aircraft and must not be flown over populous areas in a way that could pose a risk to people and property,” Mr Gibson said.

The reckless incident is expected to curtail or even end fly pasts by commercial and even military aircraft officials within CASA and the Australian crash investigator say.

In fact, air traffic control congestion limited what the pilots could do and the planned fly-past of Langley Park, Elizabeth Quay and over Kings Park was curtailed.

Instead, the A350 flew down the Swan River over Maylands, Heirisson Island and South Perth. 

Last month the Australian Transport Safety Bureau warned that the number of close encounters between drones and planes is forecast to jump by 75 per cent this year. 

A report by the ATSB on the safety of drones found there had been 180 safety incidents involving drones between 2012 and 2016, including crashes. 

High capacity air transport accounted for 45 per cent of the reports.