New rules for flying recreational drones in Canada
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, March 16, 2017 10:02AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 16, 2017 8:23PM EDT
Federal Minister of Transport Marc Garneau is imposing new restrictions on all recreational drone users in Canada, severely limiting the use of unmanned aerial vehicles near people, animals, buildings and airports.
Garneau says the new measures are meant to curb the number of near-misses between drones and commercial aircraft, which have more than tripled from 2014 to 2016.
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Under the new restrictions, which are effective immediately, recreational drone pilots are prohibited from flying their UAVs higher than 90 metres, within 75 metres of buildings, animals or people, or within nine kilometres of an airport. Night flights are also prohibited under the new restriction, which promises a fine of up to $3,000.
Recreational users are also required to include their name, address and phone number with their drones.
"The majority of these recreational users are new and inexperienced," Garneau said at a news conference in Toronto, at Billy Bishop Airport. "I'm sure they want to do the right thing, but they may not understand the potential safety risks of operating a drone."
Garneau says he is imposing the new measures under the Aeronautical Act, which allows him to take action "when there is a significant risk to aviation."
Transport Canada says there were 148 reported incidents involving drones in 2016. That's up from 85 incidents in 2015, and 41 incidents in 2014.
Garneau says the consequences could be disastrous if one of these encounters results in a collision between a drone and an aircraft. "We need to do everything in our power to stop this from happening," he said.
The new regulations could make it difficult for amateur drone pilots to fly their aircraft in populated areas, or even at parks where other people are around.
Joseph Yeremian, an engineer and member of the Ontario Aerospace Council Board, says the new regulations are “extremely important” for ensuring safety and privacy.
Yeremian told CTV News Channel that, in addition to interfering with aircraft, recreational drones could potentially interrupt power lines or plummet to the ground and injure people.
He offered a hypothetical situation: “If the battery dies or one of the parts breaks (and) it falls on someone, it may kill him or the blade comes through his eye and blinds him.”
Yeremian added that the regulations will also prevent people from spying on their neighbours.
Douglas Marshall, a U.S. aviation consultant, told CTV News Channel that the regulations are a step in the right direction, but he believes enforcement of the rules will be “very difficult.”
The new measures do not apply to commercial drone pilots or users at Model Aeronautics Association of Canada-sanctioned sites and events.
Under current legislation, drone pilots require a special flight operating certificate to use the aircraft for commercial, academic or research purposes.
The new restrictions sparked a wave of enthusiasm from those in the airline industry, while amateur drone pilots were not so happy.
The Drone Manufacturers Alliance, an organization that says it represents manufacturers of the majority of civilian drones, said in a statement that the new regulations “will provide a negligible increase in safety while sharply curtailing the ability of Canadians to explore and photograph their country and teach their children and science and technology.”
“These sudden regulations, imposed without input from Canada’s tens of thousands of responsible drone pilots, will hurt innovation and education without a corresponding improvement in safety,” Kara Calvert, director of the Drone Manufacturers Alliance, said in the statement.
“The overwhelming majority of Canadian drone pilots operate safely and responsibly, and they are the ones who will be hurt by far-reaching restrictions – not the tiny number of irresponsible operators who have already violated existing drone safety rules.”