Drones have launched into recreational and commercial popularity over the last few years, but they’ve also flown into some legal grey areas with regards to safety and privacy. In Canada, safety guidelines for drones were updated in October 2014 for both hobbyists and businesses. Here’s a look at some recent drones stories in the news and how Canadian regulations are currently addressing these kinds of issues today.
1. Beach day drone drama
Last June, a Connecticut woman attacked a teenager who was flying his quadcopter drone over a beach. The incident was caught in the video above (warning: the video contains strong language). While the woman ended up getting charged with assault and breach of peace, the teen wasn’t charged with any crime, as there was no law against filming in a public place. As of February 15, 2015, the United States’ Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has proposed new rules for small unmanned aircraft systems.
The teen may not have been as fortunate north of the border, though. Legal use of an unmanned aircraft in Canada prohibits flying near areas with large groups of people, such as beaches.
2. A do and don’t of drone photography
This past December, a Montreal photographer was fined $1,000 by Transport Canada for flying his drone to take photos of a house for a real estate agent last summer. Meanwhile, a brother-team of realtors in Vancouver have been using their quadcopter drone the same way. The difference? The brothers acquire a Special Flight Operations Certificate from Transport Canada every time they use their drone for commercial purposes.
3. Crash landing at Capitol Hill
Last month, a drone crash on the grounds of the White House made headlines as it prompted an immediate lockdown until officials determined that the device didn’t pose a threat. The operator came forward and said he was using the drone recreationally and didn't mean to fly it over the White House.
To avoid this kind of blunder in Canada, be sure your drone dodges those restricted airspaces, which could include some government buildings like Parliament Hill.
4. Ram rages against the machine
In September, a drone and its pilot felt the wrath of a ram when the drone flew too close for comfort. The incredible video shot on the countryside of New Zealand shows a black wooly ram charging violently, antlers-first, into the camera-equipped drone as it buzzed around it, before the ram eventually knocked it into a bush. When the pilot went to retrieve his device, the ram followed him relentlessly.
In Canada, unmanned aircrafts are prohibited from flying closer than 150 metres from animals — for their safety and, presumably, your own, too!
5. No drones in the end zone
The biggest event in professional sports this year was declared a “No Drone Zone.” The United States FAA strictly prohibited unmanned drones flying over the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this month. The FAA has restrictions on drones flying over or near NFL games, MLB games, some NCAA events, and most NASCAR races.
Similarly, in Canada, recreational drones are restricted from flying near sporting events, so keep the drones at home, sports fans.
6. "The future is creepy"
In August, a Vancouver resident was having dinner when, all of a sudden, he heard what he thought was a swarm of bees outside his apartment on the 36th floor of his condo. Next thing he knew, a neon-coloured drone popped up, hovering just a few feet away with a camera pointed right at him. “The future is creepy,” he said in a tweet, describing the experience. He called the police, noting his concern was an invasion of privacy as the drone flew so close to his patio.
Canadian regulations have swatted away recreational drone use within 150 metres from people, buildings, structures, or vehicles.
7. Drones flying too high
In July, Transport Canada and Richmond RCMP investigated a breathtaking YouTube video that shows a drone flying too close to a commercial aircraft landing at Vancouver International Airport. Sgt. Cam Kowalski said drones have dire consequences if they come into contact with a plane. “It’s like birds — they can get in the engines, but these things are bigger and heavier and metal," he said. "This is very dangerous. Unless somebody reports them there is no navigation and pilots don’t know they are there.”
Canada now wants to keep its skies clear, as it is prohibited to fly an unmanned aircraft closer than nine kilometres from an airport, heliport, or aerodrome.
For a full list of guidelines and regulations for legally flying an unmanned aircraft, visit the Transport Canada website.