Canada Puts ‘Sudden Regulations’ in Place for Hobbyist Drone Operators


Citing a tripling of “incidents” involving recreational drones since 2014, Transport Canada has introduced new rules for hobbyist unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators.

According to a press release from Transport Canada, Marc Garneau, the minister of transport, announced the immediate measure to “prevent the reckless use of drones that is putting the safety of Canadians at risk.” The minister made the announcement today at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport in the presence of airport, airline and pilot representatives, as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Toronto Police Force.

The new rules affect the operation of model aircraft and recreational drones weighing between 250 grams and 35 kilograms (approximately 77 pounds).

The key provisions are that operators must mark their aircraft with contact information and may not fly higher than 90 meters (approximately 295 feet); at night; within 75 meters of buildings, vehicles or people; or within 9 kilometers (approximately 5.6 miles) of the center of any airport, heliport, aerodrome or water aerodrome where aircraft take off and land.

Transport Canada notes that operators of UAS for commercial, academic or research purposes are not affected by the measure. The department says members of the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC) in good standing who operate at MAAC-sanctioned fields or events are also not subject to these rules.

Any recreational operator who fails to comply with the new flying restrictions and conditions could be subject to fines of up to $3,000. Transport Canada also encourages anyone to call 911 or a local law enforcement agency if he or she witnesses illegal drone use.

“I take very seriously the increased risk to aviation safety and to people on the ground caused by drones,” said Garneau. “That is why I am proceeding with this measure which takes effect immediately – to enhance the safety of aviation and the public while we work to bring into force permanent regulations.”

According to Transport Canada, the new safety rules will be in effect for a period of up to one year to “provide greater safety for operators and the public” until it puts in place permanent rules. They will also provide a way to “enforce compliance immediately.”

However, the Drone Manufacturers Alliance believes the rules will provide a “negligible increase in safety while sharply curtailing the ability of Canadians to explore and photograph their country and teach their children about science and technology.” The group also points out that aviation authorities around the world have never recorded a single confirmed collision between a civilian drone and a traditional aircraft.

“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,” says Kara Calvert, director of the alliance, in a 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.”

On the other hand, the Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) is commending Garneau on the introduction of the new rules.

“We strongly support the minister of transport’s leadership to quickly introduce fines and restrictions that reduce the risk to aviation safety from reckless drone operations,” says Captain Matt Hogan, chair of ACPA’s flight safety division. “Requiring all drones to be marked with contact information will give local police forces an important tool to investigate and assess penalties to reckless operators.”

He adds, “As pilots, we are very concerned about drones being unwittingly or intentionally flown in restricted airspace during critical phases of flight. At best, drones represent an unwelcome distraction to pilots that must be monitored; at worst, even the smallest drone could cause significant damage to an aircraft or engine.”

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