Feds un­veil new drone rules

The Prince George Citizen - - Local - Mor­gan LOWRIE

MON­TREAL — The fed­eral gov­ern­ment is work­ing with se­cu­rity agen­cies and air­ports to de­velop mea­sures to pre­vent drones from fly­ing into space re­served for air­craft, Trans­port Min­is­ter Marc Gar­neau said Wed­nes­day as he an­nounced new reg­u­la­tions for drone op­er­a­tors.

Gar­neau’s com­ments came af­ter re­cent drone sight­ings at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick air­ports caused flight de­lays and chaos for trav­ellers.

“We are work­ing with dif­fer­ent groups, in­clud­ing the air­ports but also se­cu­rity agen­cies, to ex­am­ine what kinds of coun­ter­mea­sures would be ap­pli­ca­ble de­pend­ing on the type of drone and cir­cum­stances,” Gar­neau said in Mon­treal. “Ob­vi­ously, for se­cu­rity rea­sons, I can’t go into de­tails on that, but this is some­thing we are look­ing at ex­tremely se­ri­ously be­cause it rep­re­sents po­ten­tially a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion.”

The first recorded col­li­sion be­tween a drone and a pas­sen­ger air­craft in Canada oc­curred in Oc­to­ber 2017 as an in­bound Sky­jet flight was struck as it ap­proached Que­bec’s City’s air­port. The pi­lot was able to land the plane safely.

Gar­neau an­nounced strict new reg­u­la­tions that will re­quire any­one fly­ing a drone in Canada to pass an on­line exam and get a pi­lot’s cer­tifi­cate. The new rules, which come into ef­fect June 1, ap­ply to all drone op­er­a­tors, whether they fly for fun, work or re­search.

Op­er­a­tors will be re­quired to reg­is­ter their drones and mark them with the reg­is­tra­tion num­ber.

A min­i­mum age limit of 14 for ba­sic op­er­a­tions and 16 for ad­vanced will be in­tro­duced.

Pi­lots will have to keep their air­craft be­low 122 me­tres – 400 feet – above ground level and stay away from air traf­fic.

Un­less they ob­tain a spe­cial flight cer­tifi­cate from Trans­port Canada, op­er­a­tors will have to keep their drones within their sight­line and at least 30 me­tres from other peo­ple at all times and avoid pub­lic events and po­lice se­cu­rity perime­ters.

The rules also pro­hibit peo­ple from fly­ing drones when they are suf­fer­ing from fa­tigue or un­der the in­flu­ence or drugs or al­co­hol.

The new rules, which cover drones weigh­ing be­tween 250 grams and 25 kilo­grams, are aimed in part at coun­ter­ing a grow­ing trend of drone in­cur­sions into space re­served for air travel.

Fines be­gin at be­tween $1,000 and $3,000 for in­di­vid­u­als but can rise much higher for cor­po­ra­tions or any­one de­lib­er­ately break­ing the rules. Vi­o­la­tors who de­lib­er­ately fly near an air­craft’s flight path could be sub­ject to fines of up to $25,000 and prison.

Gar­neau said that peo­ple who fly un­manned air­craft such as drones must ac­cept the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that come with be­ing a pi­lot.

“You are a pi­lot if you’re fly­ing a drone, and be­cause of the risks and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, it is im­per­a­tive that you know the rules in ef­fect in the sky,” he said.

Wed­nes­day’s an­nounce­ment was wel­comed by the chair­man of Un­manned Sys­tems Canada, a drone in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion that was in­volved in the con­sul­ta­tion process to cre­ate the new rules.

In a phone in­ter­view, Mark Aruja said the frame­work pro­vides much-needed clar­ity and a more stream­lined process for both com­mer­cial and recre­ational users.

“From a com­mer­cial per­spec­tive, it’s go­ing to en­cour­age fur­ther (investment) be­cause you clearly un­der­stand what the rules are, and clar­ity is good for busi­ness,” he said.

“On the recre­ational side, as long as the tech­nol­ogy re­mains accessible and fun, I don’t think it’s go­ing to ham­per things, just make things clearer.”

He said Trans­port Canada’s next chal­lenge will be to reg­u­late long-range drone use, which could be used to sur­vey thou­sands of kilo­me­tres of pipe­lines, hy­dro-elec­tric grids and wa­ter­ways.

Ot­tawa has doc­u­mented a spike in the num­ber of drone in­ci­dents pos­ing a risk to avi­a­tion safety in re­cent years. The num­ber of re­ported in­ci­dents more than tripled to 135 in 2017 from 38 when data col­lec­tion be­gan in 2014.

Aruja said cur­rent es­ti­mates sug­gest there are some 350,000 drones in Canada, most of which are used for recre­ational pur­poses.

CP PHOTO

Fed­eral Trans­port Min­is­ter Marc Gar­neau an­nounces new rules to fly a drone in Canada dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Mon­treal on Wed­nes­day.

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