SHOTGUNS could be used to shoot green group spy drones out of the sky over North Queensland grazing properties.
Environmental group The Wilderness Society is about to launch a hi-tech operation labelled Sky Scout that will employ drones to take photos of suspected illegal land clearing.
Prominent grazier Graham Elmes said landholders would be worried the drones would stampede their cattle. He said he would not be surprised if graziers used rifles and shotguns to shoot down unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles.
The Wilderness Society is crowdfunding $30,000 to buy and provide operational backup for three drones, one each in Queensland, WA and NSW.
Brisbane-based spokeswoman Gemma Plesman said that with two weeks left to run the crowdfunding campaign was close to its financial target.
She said Queensland was the worst offender when it came to tree clearing.
Ms Plesman said video footage from the drones would be released to politicians and the public. “We want to show the scale of destruction to the community,” she said.
Ms Plesman said the drones would be used to monitor large scale land clearing on properties, some in excess of several thousand square kilometres.
But, given that drones cannot be lawfully flown beyond the operator’s line of sight, the plan has logistical difficulties of its own to overcome.
Craig Newlyn, technical editor of Drone Magazine Australia, said that Civil Aviation Safety Authority laws dictated drones could not be flown beyond visual line of sight.
He said larger drones costing more than $25,000 each had a visual range of about 700m in clear weather. Small drones had a range of between 300m and 400m.
He said drones could be flown longer distances, but only if there were other operators to maintain visual contact.
“The reality of being able to accomplish what they want to achieve will be difficult with a $10,000 drone,” he said.
Mr Elmes, who now lives on a grazing property at Millaa Millaa, on the Atherton Tableland has owned and operated cattle stations in the Cooktown area of Cape York Peninsula.
He said for The Wilderness Society to be successful, its drone operators would have to drive on to the property they were targeting for video and photographic images.
“If they trespass how would they be legally able to distribute those images? I don’t know how they expect to get away with this sort of thing,” he said.
“People could take a shot at them (drones). If you don’t know what it is or what it is doing there, what options do you have?”
Mr Elmes said noise from the drones could easily frighten cattle into stampeding. He said the agitated cattle could smash fences and run until they were exhausted.