Drones pose a far greater threat to fire-fighting helicopters and planes than birds, and could even bring the aircraft down, according to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. If drones are spotted near bushfires, support aircraft could actually be ordered to retreat.
Speaking to Prime7, Superintendent Anthony Ferguson of the RFS claimed that fire-fighting aircraft would actually be grounded, were consumer drones spotted in the sky.
"They're just trying to fly safely in what are very high stress situations and you add in this other element and it becomes incredibly dangerous for them," he said. "It's almost impossible for a fire-fighting pilot to see a drone in the air, particularly in a bushfire situation when you may have low visibility and high winds and they're concentrating on doing their job fighting the bushfire."
We previously had a more comprehensive look at the rules surrounding drone use in Australia, and while there are some very specific restrictions, there are no laws against flying them near bushfires. It's conceivable that some may want to capture GoPro footage, or - similar to mischievous fire starters - simply cause trouble, without realising they could be seriously hampering a fire-fighting effort.
"If you take those aircraft out of there you're losing situational awareness from above, you're losing the capacity to be able to reach fire that firefighters won't be able to reach from their tankers, and you're losing a vital support mechanism," said Ferguson.
[Firefighting helicopters] via Prime7
[Bushfire Helicopter] via Shutterstock