Drone users face new restrictions

via The Chronicle Herald

Canadians received some clarity Thursday on what recreational users can and can’t do with drones.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau unveiled restrictions to curb the number of incidents in which recreational drones have come too close to airplanes, which have more than tripled since 2014.

Garneau said that until now, Transport Canada had only provided guidelines on drone use, without any penalties or regulations attached.

But under these new rules, drone users must mark their drones with their contact information. They can’t fly higher than 90 metres or within 75 metres of buildings, vehicles or people. They also need to stay more than nine kilometres away from any airport, heliport, aerodrome or water aerodrome where aircraft take off and land.

Garneau said the new rules that came into effect Thursday are an interim measure until formal regulations are enacted, likely in June.

Trevor Bergmann, CEO of AeroVision Canada Inc., says recreational drone use has been getting out of hand in Halifax.

He has seen a problem with landscape photographers, video bloggers and YouTube users attempting to fly in areas that were known as no-fly zones.

He says users who disobeyed the guidelines were trying to hide in the “grey zone” among a flurry of excuses. But now, he says, there is no excuse.

“It’s very black and white now as to what you can and cannot do,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.

Anyone violating the new rules could be subject to a fine of up to $3,000, up to $15,000 for corporations. The new rules don’t apply to commercial, academic or research drone use.

“If you are a pilot, you have very strict rules that you have to work by so it is also important that we establish strict rules for other unmanned objects that are going to go into the airspace, because they are going to be sharing the airspace,” Garneau said.

“Secondly, those objects that are being controlled can sometimes, if they fail or they’re used improperly, can do damage simply by falling out of the sky, and we have had incidents of that.”

He added that the government wanted to make the changes before a drone hit an airplane and caused a catastrophe. “That’s the kind of nightmare scenario that keeps me awake at night as your transport minister.”

Halifax Stanfield airport has thrown its support behind Transport Canada’s new regulations.

“Safety at Halifax Stanfield is our top priority and we believe these new measures will reduce the risk to aerodrome property, aircraft, and lives,” Joyce Carter , CEO of Halifax Stanfield, said in a news release.

Bergmann agrees, while admitting that the rules are long overdue.

But he says it’s quite difficult to understand why some recreational users continue to break the rules, disregard the guidelines and “conduct flights that go against any level of common sense.”

He encourages recreational users to go to AeroVision or their nearest local UAV store to seek out drone training. He envisions a future in which a pilot’s licence will eventually be required for anyone to operate a drone.

“It’s important we allow Transport Canada to do what they need to do in order to safeguard the airspace where manned aviation or first responders and forest fires are occurring.”

Original publish date: Mar. 16, 2017

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