Federal rules tightened for recreational drone use


Citing recent “reckless use of drones that is putting the safety of Canadians at risk,” the federal government has set up new temporary rules limiting where and when drones can be flown for the heck of it.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau on Thursday announced an interim order with new rules for the recreational operation of model aircraft and of drones weighing more than 250 grams and up to 35 kg.

Recreational drones are now banned from flying higher than 90 metres; from flying within 75 metres of “buildings, structures, vehicles, vessels, animals and the public” which includes “spectators, bystanders or any person not associated with the operation of the aircraft” and over any “open-air assembly of persons.”

The new rules also ban drones from flying within nine km of the centre of any airport, heliport or any other site where aircraft take off and land; within nine km of a forest fire area; and within the perimeter of an emergency operation site involving police or first responders.

Recreational drones also may not be flown at night or “in cloud,” the government said.

Recreational drone operators are also now required to mark their drones with their contact information.

Noting Thursday the number of incidents involving recreational drones has “more than tripled” since 2014, Garneau said the new measures, which take effect immediately, will “enhance the safety of aviation and the public while we work to bring into force permanent regulations.”

The temporary rules, which are expected to be in place for up to a year, impose fines for non-compliance, worth up to $3,000 per individual.

The new measures won’t affect operators of drones for “commercial, academic or research purposes,” the government said Thursday.

In those cases, “the rules that are already in place are effective and most commercial users operate their drones in a safe manner.”

Work purposes

Drone use for “work or research purposes” includes the unmanned aircraft’s use in farm work, a Transport Canada spokesperson said Thursday via email.

Thus, farmers or anyone else using a drone for work still must either get a special flight operations certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada, “unless they meet the strict safety conditions in Transport Canada’s exemptions,” the department said.

SFOCs lay out specific terms for a given operator, which can include limits on maximum allowed altitude, mandatory communications with air traffic control, and minimum required distances from people, buildings and aerodromes.

Exemptions allow work use of drones with a maximum takeoff weight of at least one kg up to 25 kg, with maximum calibrated airspeed of 87 knots or less, as long as the drone is being operated away from “built-up areas, airspace, controlled aerodromes, forest fire areas and other restricted locations.”

Work-related drone use that’s exempt from an SFOC also requires operators to report any drone-related injuries requiring medical attention, as well as any “unintended contact” between a drone and people, livestock, vehicles, vessels or other structures.

Work-related drone uses which fall outside the conditions of those exemptions are subject to requirements for an SFOC, regardless of the drone’s weight.

Transport Canada noted Thursday it’s also proposing changes to federal aviation regulations including new flight rules, aircraft marking and registration requirements, knowledge testing, minimum age limits, and pilot permits for “certain UAV operators.”

Those new rules — which are expected to be published in June for public comment — focus on “smaller” (25 kg or less) drones and unmanned aircraft operated within visual line of sight, whether recreational or non-recreational. — AGCanada.com Network

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  • Bob McKillop

    The new rules that are about to be published for public comment focus on the smaller drones. There needs to be some other method for classifying drone capabilities. Bigger is not necessarily better and smaller is not necessarily worse.

    We need to focus more on the capabilities of the drone as a means to differentiating between possible categories.

    There certainly is a low-end category of drones with little to no intelligent capabilities, small in size, a low price point and a tendency to be used as toys. These drones require visual line of sight in order to safely conduct any type of flight.

    A small drone can also have all the characteristics required to be a top of the line machine. This of course comes at the expense of a much higher price point. By way of example I will cite just some of the capabilities of a compact drone that I recently purchased. This item weighs in at 750 grams, definitely in the small category.
    Its capabilites include: GPS navigation; Real time high definition video feed back to the operator for the duration of the flight; Return to home at the touch of a button; Return to home due to low battery condition; Return to home if the control signal to the operator is lost; Obstacle sensing (via redundant sensors) and obstacle avoidance; Operate at a distance of up to 7 kms away from the operator. The list goes on but I think you will get the sense of my argument that smaller can also be better.

    One other disturbing aspect of the “New Rules” to be and the recently announced “New Regulations” is the constant reference to VLOS (Visual line Of Sight). My drone is certainly capable of being used in agriculture to be able to quickly take a look at a crop in a large field. In PEI, fields that are 1 km long are not uncommon. Inorder for a drone to be a useful tool, it must be able operate over the entire field from just one point of control. There are not too many people who can see a small drone at that distance. The requirement for VLOS will kill inovations in the field.

COPA Medallion COPA finalist in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
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