UAV operator "not certified" according to ACUO, after triathlete injured by UAV in Geraldton

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Australian Certified UAV Operators (ACUO) have today said local business New Era Film and Photography are not a holder of a CASA UAV Operator Certificate (UOC).

This comes after yesterday's incident where a triathlete was struck on the head by a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone) according to witnesses and the triathlete herself, Raija Ogden.

Everything Geraldton has since spoke to the business owner Warren Abrams who is still adamant he does in fact hold the proper certification.

"My registration number is 819 640," he said.

"I obtained my UAV Operator Certificate in February 2013 and at the time CASA told me that I was the third person in Australia to obtain this."

Warren went onto say that he believes CASA have not updated their records.

Brad Mason from the ACUO, an independent not for profit organisation with members from around Australia who operate UAV's, said that the number Mr Abrams quoted is not a licence number for flying a UAV. "It sounds like an ARN, which doesn't mean anything," said Mr Mason. An ARN is a registration number that is used to simply correspond with CASA. "The number a licensed UAV operator should have is a combination of letters and numbers," said Mr Mason.

A statement by ACUO said research they conducted revealed that there was no records of New Era Film and Photography holding the certification.

"The alleged operator of the UAV was not the holder of a CASA UAV Operator Certificate (UOC)," the statement said.

"ACUO’s own research conducted today indicates the alleged operator has been active for some time, following several claims by the alleged operator in media interviews, including with the West Australian regional media in March 2013 to be a CASA certificate holder."

ACUO confirmed that the alleged operator of the UAV was not, nor has ever attempted to become, a member of the organisation. ACUO can also confirm that they have today acted to ensure CASA is aware of the alleged operator’s previous claims to be a certified operator as part of the matters arising from the weekend’s accident.

“What happened during the Endure Batavia Triathlon must be fully investigated,” says President of ACUO Joe Urli.

“The very act of flying a UAV low over the head of members of the public is a direct breach of Part 101 of the Australian Civil Aviation Regulations which clearly mandates a minimum separation of 30 meters.

“The circumstances by which the air vehicle came to be in close proximity with the triathlete and the subsequent events culminating in her being physically injured is not acceptable by any standards of professional airmanship.

“To the female triathlete ACUO says this: We are appalled by what happened to you at the weekend. We believe you are entitled to a full explanation as to how and why the accident happened. We are sorry that the apparent actions of an uncertified operator have caused you injury and pain. As a peak industry body we will do all we can to ensure that no person has to again endure the events as experienced by you.”

Raija Ogden received head injuries during Geraldton's Endure Batavia Triathlon yesterday and was taken to hospital where she received stitches.

Mr Abrams has made several claims that the UAV didn't hit Mrs Ogden and that it merely frightened her, causing her to fall to the ground and sustain the injuries. According to The Geraldton Guardian, Mr Abrams said footage taken by the drone showed the athlete Mrs Ogden look backwards toward the approaching drone, become frightened, and then fall over injuring herself.

The Geraldton Guardian also spoke to Mrs Ogden who said the propeller from the drone struck her on the front of her head and that the ambulance crew pulled a piece of propeller from her head.

Today Mr Abrams said he was unable to make comment on whether the athlete in question had actually been hit, and an enquiry is ongoing and that a statement would be released in the next couple of days.

See previous story - Unfortunate Accident at Triathlon