Drone light display ready to safely soar over Melbourne in January

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

Note: Video footage and spokesperson interviews to support his release are available—see link at the end of the release.

A spectacular light show featuring more than 380 drones flying in formation over Melbourne’s Docklands has received the go-ahead to start this weekend after detailed safety checks by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

CASA worked with the chief remote pilot contracted by aerial art company Celestial to ensure safety risks were considered and mitigated for one of the biggest events of its type in Australian skies.

The checks to gain the required approvals are part of CASA’s remit to regulate aviation safety, ensuring safe and legal drone operations that protect those watching from the ground and also other aircraft in the air.

Innovative technology allows the drones to fly in formation to create unique and often stunning aerial displays.

CASA Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Inspector Darren McGrath said public safety is the authority’s top priority when assessing and approving a drone display, especially those involving displays of this size.

“We conduct a number of checks to ensure the display complies with our safety regulations, including assessing the applicant’s risk assessments and dress rehearsal before the event,” Mr McGrath said.

“We’ve been working closely with the chief remote pilot who oversees the entire operation, including the remote pilots who fly the drones, as well as the drone art company, to provide important information on when, where and how they can use the drones safely and within the regulations.”

Chief Remote Pilot from the Institute for Drone Technology, Jake Andrew said it usually takes about three months to prepare and practice for the 8-minute show.

“It takes a huge amount of work to ensure the display appears seamless on the night and all contingencies are carefully planned for and mitigated against,” Mr Andrew said.

“We use an animation system to choreograph the drones in the display and drone show software to ensure they don’t fly into each other, stay in formation throughout the display and land safety back on the ground.”

Celestial Chief Executive Officer Tony Martin said he is looking forward to showcasing such a large-scale drone display in Melbourne and telling the unique story that is an exciting and beautiful mix of First Nation imagery, contemporary poetry and a specially commissioned piece of music.

“Every display we do is different and aims to engage the audience in new and exciting ways which means we’re always pushing the envelope with what we do. We’ve worked hard to create a story that combines an acknowledgment of the struggles we have all faced over this last year with a positive, optimistic outlook for the year ahead,” Mr Martin said.

“Working with CASA ensures we know the limits of what we can and can’t do within the regulations to keep everyone safe.”


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