Each year Hutt City Council runs a STEMM1 festival to promote the “Technology Valley” concept. Lower Hutt sees itself as New Zealand’s hi-tech region with a bunch of scientific institutes and a few niche technology companies based here. As part of the STEMM festival for 2017, the Council and Hutt City Libraries were keen to run a Drone Racing Day with the local talent turning up to one of the local sports-grounds which would be set up with a course and video equipment for spectators to view the race from the pilot’s view.
The STEMM festival organisers knew I was into drones and so I was asked to make contact with the Wellington Model Aeroplane Club and RotorcrossNZ to see if they were keen to organise a public drone racing event. They were. Together with two others we set to and organised an event for local racers and any other RotorcrossNZ members who might be keen to come to Wellington for the event.
Being a public event required a great deal of planning and preparation. In accordance to New Zealand’s drone flying regulations we needed to get permission from the landowners to use the sports -ground. Because the owner was the Hutt City Council, this part was very easy provided we could produce an acceptable Health and Safety plan. In addition to providing flags, and equipment to cordon off the race area, the Council were kind enough to hire in a number of trees that would be located around the course to add some interest and extra obstacles.
With the acceptance of the Health and Safety Plan and an Event Management Plan we were all set to go.
Unfortunately, this is the Wellington Region, and the weather is pretty rubbish most of the time. The region is famous for its “four seasons in one day”. The weather forecasts were unreliable, predicting anything from sun and light winds to full on gale force southerly winds with rain. In the end the weather was completely awful with a polar blast, gale force winds which drove some of the largest waves on record to arrive on Wellington’s South Coast, and drizzly rain. The uncertain weather continued into our postponement date the following weekend, so that was the end of the Drone Racing Event.
So that the effort is not entirely wasted, I would like to share the Health and Safety plan and the Event Management plan to help anyone else wanting to run a public drone racing event. The documents contain some information specific to the event we attempted to run but I have tended to highlight this so it can be easily identified and removed. It also refers to New Zealand regulations around the use of drones and the website used to register drone flights. If you are intending to use this for your own event and don’t come from New Zealand you will need to substitute whatever applies for your situation.
The Health and Safety Plan
To write the Health and Safety plan I had a quick look on the web to see if there was anything suitable to build it from. There were a few but generally they did not quite capture what I had in mind. My observation is; when it comes to drones, there are a great number of perceived risks that are not founded on good risk analysis. It seemed like an ideal opportunity to create an educational document to put the risks in perspective.
The Health and Safety plan looked at the risks taking a pragmatic and a realistic approach by considering probability of an event occurring and the damage it would cause. Key to this was comparing the drones to some of the ball sports that take place on the sports ground many times each week. The most risky being rugby, hockey, and cricket – all of which can result in serious injury but don’t require much in the way of health and safety plans to keep the public and participants safe.
Briefly, here are the main sections.
- Event Overview – describe the event in the wider context.
- Event Organisers – introduce the event organisers
- Event Description
- Drones – A bit about the technology. This is where the speeds and weights are discussed and compared to the ball sports.
- Location – Description of the venue.
- Course – Description of what a typical drone race course looks like.
- Participants – Who is taking part and where do they come from?
- Structure of the Day – What is going to happen on the day. This was expanded in the Event Management Plan.
- Risks and their management
- Risks to observers/spectators
- Risks to passer-bys
- Risks to property
- Risks to participants
- Risks to other airspace users
- Risks associated with battery management
You can download an editable version of the document here:
The Event Management Plan
Because the event called on the services of more that just the drone racers themselves, there was a need to produce a document that would describe what would happen in the days leading up to the event and on the day of the event. An important part was describing the actions if bad weather was forecast for the day of the event.
The main sections in this document are:
- Event Overview
- Detailed Timetable
- Already arranged
- Airspace permission
- Health and Safety Plan
- Week Prior
- Two Days Out from Event
- Day Before Event
- Day of the Event
- Day after the Event
- Already arranged
- Postponement – criteria, what to do, and who to contact.
- Cancellation – criteria, what to do, and who to contact.
- Contact Details
- Event Organisers
- Backup Contact
You can download an editable version of the document here.
Using These Documents
The documents are freely shared so please use them, change them, and do what you like. Creative Commons blah blah blah.
Of course there is no guarantee that they will be accepted by whatever authorities you are trying to appease, but hopefully it will give you a good start.
Good luck for your race. May fine weather, light winds, enthusiastic supporting organisations, and an enthralled audience be yours for your event.
STEMM = Science Technology Engineering Mathematics, and Manufacturing. ↩