Camera Drone Supposedly Hits Triathlete in the Head During Race, Facts Still Unclear


Earlier this week, an unfortunate even took place at the Endur Batavia Triathlon. While heading into her second lap of the running portion of the triathlon, competitor Raija Ogden was taken out by a UAV — more commonly referred to as a drone — which was being operated by New Era Film and Photography.

The incident has since gone into investigation mode, with both New Era and The Geraldton Triathlon Club looking into the events that transpired. And while much information is still left unknown, an interesting piece has come out thanks to ACUO, the association responsible for certifying UAV operators in Australia.

According to the ACUO, New Era Film and Photography are not a holder of a CASA UAV Operator Certificate (UOC). However, owner of New Era, Warren Abrams, states that he is in fact properly certified, noting his registration number to Everything Geraldton:

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.

Abrams believes the discrepancy may be due to lack of CASA updating their records, but brad Mason from the ACUO says that the number Abrams shared is not a license number, but a registration number for the device being used as to reference it for when a device is eventually licensed.

With all of the back and forth banter between all parties involved, the ACUO has also jumped in on the investigation, with ACUO president Joe Urli telling Everything Geraldton:

What happened during the Endure Batavia Triathlon must be fully investigated. 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.

Also adding to the confusion is the fact that details aren’t quite clear regarding what injuries Ogden actually sustained. According to Ogden, the UAV struck her in the head while competing, leaving a piece of the propeller embedded in her head. According to Abrams, the UAV simply frightened Ogden while competing, causing her to fall down and sustain the injuries.

As of now, we’re just left trying to piece together what exactly happened until the investigations from all parties involved are made public. We’ll be sure to share an update once things are cleared up, but in the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts and sound off in the comments below.

(via Everything Geraldton)

Image credits: Photographs by OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS and Alexander Glinz

  • jrconner

    At least three issues immediately emerge from this incident:

    (1) Minimum distances for drone-object separation.
    (2) Operator certification and training.
    (3) Dangerous drone designs.

    The drone’s propellers are not protected by cylinders, probably to save weight. That’s probably no great safety risk when the drone is being flown over an empty field in an unpopulated countryside. But it’s an obvious, and I think, significant, risk when the drone is being flown over crowds. If something goes wrong, those propellers could take out an eye or sever an artery.

  • Dylan Cyr

    100% agree on all of these points. I’ve flown RC airplanes for years, and you are required to get certified and re-certified every few years, as well as purchasing insurance every year in order to do so.

  • C Jacobs

    It hit her right? Of that there’s no dispute. I’d say there’s supposedly!

  • Matt

    It says that it is dispute that it actualy hit her. Still does not absolve the operator of any questionable actions.

  • battlepriest

    Even with protection for the props, drones are heavy enough and move fast enough to cause serious or fatal injury. There will be only a short period of time before they are banned entirely over populated areas.

  • Sean Walsh

    One of these falling out of the sky will kill a person. I was operating the gimble on a hexacopter when the UAV had a catastrophic electrical failure, causing it to bank immediately, then drop 50 ft to the ground, shearing branches off of a tree as it went down. We were fortunate to be in an empty parking lot by a football stadium, so no one was at risk. We learned a lot about the potential pitfalls of UAV photo and video that day.

  • Ichiro Ashihara

    I fly a multi-rotor R/C but refuse to fly it around people until I build a full cowl (almost like a ducted fan setup) for the 10″ props. These incidences is going to make it difficult for the rest of us. Be responsible!

  • Joey Duncan

    Dylan, What country are you in that REQUIRES you to “certify”?

  • Dylan Cyr

    The U.S.? It may be because the models I fly are glo fuel and gasoline powered, I believe the regulations may be different for electric.

  • Joey Duncan

    Oh, you are referring to AMA? AMA is a business not a requirement. So people are clear there are no “cert” requirements in the US. AMA requires you to pass a test if you are to join/fly with them.

  • Jason Muspratt

    The operator claims she fell over because the drone frightened her, but the ambulance was reporting that they pulled bits of propeller from her head.

    After the claims of “hacking”, I really don’t trust the operator at all.

  • John Whitby

    Drones are pretty safe when operated responsibly and the rules are followed, just as helicopters, light aircraft, military and commercial aircraft are. However that doesn’t stop accidents happening with any of the above. So before everyone starts crying out for drones to be banned, just remember they are far less dangerous than the average family car, you are far more likely to be injured or killed by a car than by any other form of vehicle.
    Saying all that, all flying within 50 horizontal metres of people, buildings, or other structures and over built up areas should only be permitted for those that have been licensed by a country’s Civil (or Federal) Aviation Authority as they do here in the UK, Europe and apparently in Australia and New Zealand also!
    Also only registered drones equipped with multiple safety features should be used for those purposes, such as auto return to take off point, in the event of low battery power or loss of contact with the remote transmitter and drone, flight controller, GPS system, remote control transmitter and receiver should all be of a standard certified fit for commercial operation. …. I could buy a very good 8 channel Turnigy transmitter for £85 ($130) but with a drone and camera set up running into several thousand pounds I have decided on a top of the range transmitter costing over twice as much to ensure the safe operation of my drone and the safety of both the public and my valuable equipment.

  • Erik Lauri Kulo

    I don’t think there’s much confusion anymore. There’s pictures of the drone just after it hit her in the end and you can see blood pouring down (it’s by no means gory though, so don’t hesitate to google it). And Australian newspapers seem to write a lot about this. Just google her name, plus drone.

  • Laura Cosme

    my Aunty
    Violet got a new Volvo XC60 SUV by work part-time using a laptop… why not
    look here W­o­r­k­s­7­7­.­C­O­M­

  • Alan Dove

    New triathlon slogan: Swim-Bike-Run-DUCK!