A skilled helicopter pilot has shown his rage at finding a drone that was flying close to him during a fire-fighting procedure in Canterbury last year. He mentioned that it could have flown through his windscreen or even hit him right in the face.

Kairaki man Simon Roy Reeve, 38, is facing three charges for causing irrelevant risk and flying a drone in a controlled airspace without authorization.

Prosecutors report that he flew his remote-operated drone hazardously close to a Way2Go Heli Services squirrel helicopter fighting a big plantation fire at the Pines Beach in January last year.

David Askin, also known as Steve, showed his rage at seeing drone footage of the fire come up on the news that night.

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The helicopter pilot and instructor made claims that he was oblivious to the fact that it was in the air during the period of the hazardous operation.

“When I was sitting there watching that footage, I was running through all the possible instances of what could have happened,” he told the court.

“For one it could damage the helicopter, and the helicopter is an expensive piece of equipment. Two, it could bring me down to the ground, cause me to crash,” he added.

Mr. Askin narrated how helicopter pilots normally take the doors off of their aircraft in firefighting procedures and suspend their head outside to present a good view of their monsoon bucket and target. The drone hitting him on the face would have been the worst possible thing that could have happened.

“That thing could come through the windscreen at the pilot. There’s a hundred million different scenarios that could affect the helicopter in a small way to a big way.”

TVNZ pays for drone footage.

Proof started this morning with attestation from a TVNZ news crew that got to the scene to comment on the fire and a series of expulsions close to the plantation.


Reporter Joy Reid mentioned to the court that she observed Mr. Reeve directing a remote control in a clearing close to Pines Beach village around mid-afternoon. She couldn’t see the drone at that time and didn’t observe it until Mr. Reeve landed it later that day.

She made an offer to pay Mr. Reeve $200 for his footage and it was broadcast on the 6:00 p.m. news that evening.

The defense has made claims before that Mr. Reeve had perspective with the drone and was capable of seeing it at all times all through the flight.

Camera operator Daniel O’Sullivan stated that the drone had taken scenes he wasn’t capable of filming from the ground. First of all, he observed Mr. Reeve flying the drone in a clearing very close to the plantation, but he reported that it was working in a “completely different location” later in the day.

The judge-alone trial should be finalized soon.

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