The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has acquired a drone pilot licence, enabling the government agency to use remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) as part of its investigations.
ATSB investigation manager Derek Hoffmeister was awarded a certificate by the Civil Aviation Safety Agency (CASA) allowing him to fly RPAS craft weighing up to seven kilograms last week.
Hoffmeister was granted 'chief remote pilot' status by CASA after passing a required flying test and interview by the authority.
He has already flown a drone as part of an investigation into a coal train that derailed in Queensland last Friday.
ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood said drone technology has advanced sufficiently to make it a viable, cheap and easy option to use for the agency's investigations.
It allows investigators to undertake initial site surveys quickly before entering the location to check for safety hazards, Hoffmeister said.
"We can capture that imagery ourselves using RPAS – imagery that could previously only be obtained with a helicopter," the ATSB chief remote pilot said.
More broadly the ATSB is currently looking into the safe use of the remotely piloted aircraft by operators in light of recent collisipons with other aircraft.