Drones have ushered in a new age of privacy and safety concerns. High-definition cameras attached to these high-flying aircraft show areas on the ground in a way not commonly seen before.
But it also means a camera might fly overhead at any time.
Transport Canada updated its drone regulations along with introducing two new certifications — basic and advanced — on Saturday.
An expert in St. John’s says these regulations are moving toward enabling package delivery via drones.
Jeff Ducharme, an instructor at College of the North Atlantic who teaches a drone journalism course, said Transport Canada is moving in the right direction.
“Hopefully, they will be enforced. Transport Canada made the decision to move from education to enforcement and I believe that’s a good thing,” Ducharme said. “The responsible fliers are going to take the exam and mark their drones, but it’s the other people who are not going to pay attention to the regulations.”
Anyone who breaks a rule can be fined or receive jail time. Fines for an individual flying a drone run up to a maximum of $3,000. For a corporation the highest fine is $15,000.
Bob Crocker, a professional photographer and pilot, said these new rules focus on educating new fliers.
“The most important regulation is that you have to have a drone pilot’s licence to fly and operate a drone. The flier must understand the theory of flight, flight weather and the space around airports,” Crocker said. “When you see near misses at airports, eventually they had to have this kind of regulation in effect. It’s because people think this is a little toy, but it can really do a lot of damage.”
Ducharme said these rules are going to continue to evolve.
“The idea here is to integrate drones into the traditional airspace and that’s what people are working on right now,” Ducharme said. “We are still working on beyond visual-line-of-sight, which would make it possible for Amazon to deliver packages.”
Visual-line-of-sight means keeping your device in sight at all times without visual aid (binoculars or video feed), says the Government of Canada website.
Chris LeGrow, a commercial pilot and drone operator with Cloudbreaker, has been keeping up with the new rules, since he is up in the clouds with drones frequently.
“We are happier with the new rules from a pilot standpoint,” LeGrow said.
He questioned, however, where the regulations are going.
“That’s where my criticism comes with all this. I did the advanced certification test and the flight reviewer had about a year experience flying drones,” he said. “I didn’t feel comfortable in the level of examining of what I was given. My worry is now that there are these companies who are charging hundreds of dollars and not providing the proper training.”
"My worry is now that there are these companies who are charging hundreds of dollars and not providing the proper training.” – Chris LeGrow
LeGrow said his flight review test took place over a public area with a helicopter base near it.
Crocker, Ducharme and Legrow all agree that how people use drones will evolve tremendously over the coming years, with new ideas for drones being used in areas such as medicine, delivery and local documentaries.
“We are shooting lots of documentaries that are being filmed here. We just got a phone call from Japan and we have two iceberg documentaries coming up. And another one with MUN in the Tablelands,” LeGrow said. “We’ve also been getting a lot of calls from employers wanting their employees in earth sciences and mapping trained with drones.”
“We have only touched the surface of what drones can do," Crocker said.
NEW DRONE RULES
- Operators will have to pass an online exam to get a drone pilot's certificate.
- Drones will have to be registered (at a fee of $5) and marked with the registration number.
- There is a minimum age limit of 14 for basic operations and 16 for advanced operations.
- Drones will have to be kept below 400 feet above ground level and stay away from air traffic.
- You are conducting basic operations if you are flying: in an uncontrolled airspace, more than 30 metres horizontally from bystanders and never above bystanders.
- You are conducting advanced operations if you are flying in a controlled airspace, less than 30 metres horizontally from bystanders, or above bystanders.
- There is also an interactive map from the National Research Council Canada that people can use to find out what is required to fly in their area.
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