AGL to send blimp over Gloucester

AGL Energy hopes to launch an unmanned airship over Gloucester and surrounds this week, as part of an aeromagnetic survey of potential coal seam gas reserves in the area.

The plan has infuriated some locals, who have questioned the remote-controlled blimp’s legality and believe it will cause unnecessary intrusion in their rural community.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority confirmed yesterday the project contractor, Shift Geophysics, was yet to receive an operating certificate for the blimp.

‘‘All of the safety concerns will need to be addressed before they can undertake the operation,’’ a spokesman said.

AGL recently wrote to residents to advise it planned to use the blimp for survey work in the northern end of the Gloucester basin from January 10.

It will fly in a grid-like pattern 40 to 60metres above the ground from Gloucester in the north to Stroud Road in the south.

‘‘The airship, to which a magnetometer is attached, is designed to conduct a quieter, less intrusive survey in comparison to a conventional aircraft typically used, such as a helicopter,’’ an AGL community update newsletter said.

Forbesdale resident Robin Besier said she was not convinced the blimp was safe.

‘‘It’s just scary; there are just so many questions,’’ she said.

‘‘People don’t understand how low it is going to be to the ground. It could easily hit a tree or powerline.’’

Several farmers have raised concerns about its impact on grazing cattle and horses.

AGL Energy could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

A spokeswoman for Energy Minister Chris Hartcher said the aeromagnetic survey would cause minimal disruption to the community.

‘‘Aeromagnetic surveys are non-intrusive and minimal impact, and have been used across NSW for many decades to map the state’s resources,’’ she said.  

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