Harbour Grace considered no-fly zone for drone operators
Recreational flyers now must follow regulations, or risk getting hit with a hefty fine
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
Drones like this DJI Phantom 3 will no longer be able to fly freely in certain parts of the province.