Harbour Grace con­sid­ered no-fly zone for drone oper­a­tors

Recre­ational fly­ers now must fol­low reg­u­la­tions, or risk get­ting hit with a hefty fine

The Compass - - News - BY CHRIS LEWIS chris.lewis@tc.tc

If you’ve thought of tak­ing your drone out for a spin in Harbour Grace, think again. The town, and sur­round­ing ar­eas are now a no-fly zone un­der the new Trans­port Canada rules re­gard­ing recre­ational drone use.

The rules state that recre­ational drone pi­lots can be fined for up to $3,000 if caught op­er­at­ing a drone un­der cir­cum­stances that don’t fall un­der the guide­lines.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Marc Garneau said in a news re­lease that near-misses be­tween drones and com­mer­cial air­craft have nearly tripled over the last two years, and that th­ese rules have been put in place to try and curb that.

Recre­ational drone pi­lots can no longer fly:

• Above 90 me­tres.

• Within 75 me­tres of build­ings , ve­hi­cles, ves­sels, peo­ple or an­i­mals. peo­ple, or an­i­mals.

• Above 500 me­tres away from the op­er­a­tor.

• At night, or in clouds.

• Within nine kilo­me­tres of an area where planes, he­li­copters, or other air­craft land or take off.

• Above for­est fires or other emer­gency re­sponse scenes.

• In con­trolled airspaces.

• With­out the name, phone num­ber, and ad­dresses of the pilot writ­ten clearly on the drone.

Be­cause of this, the ma­jor­ity of St. John’s and its sur­round­ing ar­eas have been named no-fly zones, due to all the airstrips, he­li­ports and con­trolled airspaces in the area.

Harbour Grace is also on the list of no-fly zones, be­cause of the Harbour Grace airstrip, just off of Lady Lake Road. This means that drone oper­a­tors can­not fly within a nine kilo­me­tre ra­dius of Harbour Grace — mak­ing the area be­tween Vic­to­ria and Spa­niard’s Bay strictly off lim­its.

The Harbour Grace airstrip was orig­i­nally used in the early 1900s, run­ning for nine years be­tween 1927 and 1936, with about 20 flights tak­ing off from the strip. The airstrip opened up again briefly dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, where it was used as a base for

air­craft to track Ger­man U-Boats, though it did not see much ac­tion

In 1977, the Harbour Grace His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety re-opened the air­field, restor­ing it to op­er­at­ing con­di­tion.

Drone oper­a­tors in the area took to so­cial me­dia to ex­press their con­cern over the reg­u­la­tions, with some not quite un­der­stand­ing the rea­son­ing be­hind the in­clu­sion of the Harbour Grace air­field, not­ing the lack of use the area gets with com­mer­cial air­craft.

Jeff Ducharme is a jour­nal­ism in­struc­tor at Col­lege of the North At­lantic, where he teaches stu­dents the right and wrong ways to op­er­ate drones in a class called Drone Jour­nal­ism Tech­nol­ogy. Ducharme noted that com­mer­cial fly­ers were al­ways aware of th­ese reg­u­la­tions, and that they’re not re­ally any­thing new — they’re just now get­ting more at­ten­tion.

“It’s not the recre­ational fly­ers or the com­mer­cial fly­ers that th­ese reg­u­la­tions are re­ally tar­geted at,” said Ducharme, “it’s the out-of-the-box fly­ers. The guys that take the drone out of the box, fig­ure out how to get it in the air, and then do crazy things like at­tach fire­works to them and chase their bud­dies. All to get that 15 min­utes of fame on Youtube.

Drone NL is a com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in drones, and are no strangers to the Harbour Grace area. They’ve shot video of things like the S.S. Kyle, and the Christ­mas lights dec­o­rat­ing boats in Port de Grave harbour dur­ing the win­ter sea­son. They also pro­vide real es­tate photos for houses and build­ings.

John King, CEO of Drone NL, says that as a com­pany, Drone NL fly­ers are con­sid­ered com­mer­cial. There­fore, they have been aware of th­ese reg­u­la­tions for a while, and have al­ways had to fol­low them.

How­ever, King said that they have a provincewide Spe­cial Flight Op­er­a­tions Cer­tifi­cate (SFOC), which al­lows them to fly any­where in the prov­ince, so long as they fol­low the guide­lines within the SFOC.

“As com­mer­cial fly­ers, we’re able to fly in places like St. John’s or Harbour Grace, but we need to be in con­tact with Trans­port Canada about ev­ery­thing

we do, "ex­plained King. "We can't just get up and go fly wher­ever we want. We need to con­tract Trans­port Canada, ex­plain what we’re do­ing, and go over a num­ber of things such as safety mea­sures and where we’ll be.”

King says he un­der­stands both sides. He can see why recre­ational fly­ers may not be too happy about the reg­u­la­tions, but he said he also knows that Trans­port Canada is just try­ing to be as safe as pos­si­ble, and that it’s still a learn­ing process.

“Drones are still a new in­dus­try, so Trans­port Canada are just tak­ing things one step at a time to see what works and what doesn’t,” he said.

Ducharme says the reg­u­la­tions are, at the end of the day, not go­ing to have a ma­jor im­pact on the way peo­ple fly.

“Drones are a plat­form — no one is fly­ing them to do cool tricks in the air, be­cause you can’t do that. They’re fly­ing to get photos or videos,” said Ducharme. “None of th­ese reg­u­la­tions are re­ally go­ing to im­pede any­one from get­ting good shots. What they

will do, is make sure ev­ery­one’s fly­ing safely, and re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple do­ing crazy things — like the fire­works guys — and ul­ti­mately re­duce the risk of some­one get­ting hurt.”

None of th­ese reg­u­la­tions are re­ally go­ing to im­pede any­one from get­ting good shots.

— Jeff Ducharme

CHRIS LEWIS/TC ME­DIA

Drones like this DJI Phan­tom 3 will no longer be able to fly freely in cer­tain parts of the prov­ince.

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