Drones 101: Calgary lawyer says laws confusing but clarity is on the horizon

A Calgary lawyer who specializes in emerging technologies, like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which are commonly called drones, says while the current drone laws are confusing there are amendments coming this spring that could make things a lot clearer.

'Transport Canada regulates safe airspace use. They are not regulating every single aspect of drones'

Erika Carrasco, a partner and litigator with Field Law, says there’s confusion around the legal operation of drones in Canada.

A Calgary lawyer who specializes in emerging technologies — like unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) which are commonly called drones — says while the current drone laws are confusing there are amendments coming this spring that could make things a lot clearer.

Erika Carrasco, a partner and litigator with Field Law, says there's confusion around the legal operation of drones in Canada.

"I would definitely say so," Carrasco told the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.

"I am not sure how many drone operators are fully aware of the act and the regulations that apply to drones."

Drones are generally covered by Transport Canada's Canadian Aviation Regulations and there are rules for recreational and commercial users.

"A drone is considered an aircraft under the regulations and so the operator is then considered a pilot," Carrasco said.

Recreational users are covered by Interim Order No. 8 which states the UAV can't weigh more than 35 kilograms (77.2 pounds), go higher than 90 metres (300 feet),  be flown in controlled or restricted airspace, near police, emergency responders or crowds or within 5.5 kilometres from an airport.

But Transport Canada only looks at the location of the drone, not the ethical issues that may arise. For example, can you peak inside your neighbour's backyard? Inside their bedroom window?

Transportation Canada does not cover privacy issues

"Transport Canada regulates safe air space use. They are not regulating every single aspect of drones," Carrasco explains.

"There are no specific drone privacy laws. Any law that we currently have in place can apply to a drone. So you could end up with different kinds of criminal charges or civil lawsuits."

Carrasco says, to avoid situations like the Calgary man charged $500 for flying a drone over Two Jack Lake recently, ask questions.

"I guess the bottom line is, get permission," she says.

"Because the laws are in such a state of flux, it is easy just to go to the source. Call the National Parks and ask. They will let you know what you can or cannot do. There are Transport Canada assessment officers in every region that you can call. You can call your city bylaw officers and find more information."

And there are tweaks on the way coming this spring.

"These new amendments to the regulations will bring a lot more clarity to the drone laws in Canada," Carrasco said.


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener