Reports that a drone hit an athlete competing in a triathlon in Western Australia’s Mid West are being investigated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
Raija Ogden reportedly sustained minor head injuries after the drone’s operator lost control of the device. The videographer operating the drone claimed the craft had crashed because someone in the crowd had hacked his drone and made it crash on purpose.
The drone was being used to film competitors in the Geraldton Endure Batavia triathlon in western Australia. Ms Ogden was treated at the scene of the accident before being taken to hospital where stitches were required to close a head wound. Geraldton Triathlon club has apologised to Ms Ogden who was only metres away from the finishing line when she sustained her injuries.
Drone was hacked
The drone was being piloted by local photographer Warren Abrams who set it hovering about 10m above the race route to capture images of competitors completing the 10km run section of the triathlon.
Conflicting reports about the incident have emerged in local media. Some witnesses said the drone fell directly on to Ms Ogden but others said she tripped and fell after being startled by the plummeting device.
Mr Abrams told ABC news that video footage shot by the drone clearly showed it missed Ms Ogden and fell just behind her. In later reports Ms Ogden disputed this version of events saying she only sat down as she thought she was going to faint after the craft hit her.
Channel hopping is a form of hacking which can render the drone uncontrollable to the original operator. Mr Abrams said it was a deliberate act and it would be difficult to determine who was responsible as something as common as a mobile phone could be used to perform a channel hop. The videographer added that there had been a similar incident when the drone was flown earlier in the day.
He said a full check was conducted and the device was taken elsewhere for a test flight, but he said no issues were detected. CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said he was confident sophisticated drones used in commercial operations would not be able to be controlled or hacked in that way. “the simpler ones that you can go down to a store and buy, maybe that is possible given that they’re that much more basic,” he said.
“It’s very unlikely they’re going to be used in commercial operations where they’re going to be near people or property.”
The incident is now being investigated by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority whose rules dictate that unmanned aircraft must fly a minimum of 30m away from people. Operators of drones are required to be certified by the agency to fly the unmanned craft.
The Agency is now looking into the incident as news reports raised questions about whether Mr Abrams was certified to operate the drone.
Mr Abrams said his initial investigation suggested that he lost control after someone else briefly took over flying the drone. Determining who in the crowd of competitors had stolen control would be tricky, he said, because smartphones could easily be used to carry out such an attack.