Amateur drone pilots need a lesson in rules of sky, Edmonton expert says

Amateurs taking flight with drone technology could be breaking aviation laws, warns an Edmonton professional unmanned aerial vehicle operator.

"These units are really smart, but things can go badly really quickly," says Dennis Cox

Operating a drone comes with a lot of responsibility and requires learning the rules (Associated Press)

Amateurs taking flight with drone technology could be breaking aviation laws, warns an Edmonton expert on unmanned aerial vehicles.

As the technology becomes more affordable, an increasing number of hobbyists are filling the skies above Edmonton with the remote controlled robots.

But Dennis Cox, a professional unmanned aerial vehicle operator and president of Sky Pirates UAV, says beginner pilots need to do their research.

"With a couple hundred dollars and a GoPro camera you can be flying around all over the place,"  said Cox during a Wednesday morning interview on CBC's Edmonton AM radio show. "So people, they're going and buying these things, but the retailers aren't warning people that there are rules."

Drones are heavily regulated by Transport Canada and, according to Cox, it would be virtually impossible to fly one within Edmonton city limits without breaking a rule.

Although he's impressed with some of the images that drones have captured of the Edmonton landscape, he doubts many were taken legally.

"You're not allowed to fly at night, you're not allowed to fly over traffic and you're not allowed to get too close to buildings," he said.

An interesting shot of Edmonton. But what's wrong with this picture? Under federal regulations, Cox says this picture is illegal. (Sky Pirates/Facebook )

Regulations stipulate drones must stay at least 30 metres away from people, animals and buildings and keep clear of controlled airspace.

Although there are some exceptions to the law, flying a drone for commercial reasons requires a special permit and $100,000 in liability insurance in case of an accident.

Cox said even experienced pilots can lose control of their drone, and do some serious damage. 

"These units are really smart, but things can go badly really quickly,"  he said. "When they hit, they hit hard. These things can fly as fast as 50 km/h so they can smack into things pretty good."

Cox is hosting a free seminar to give amateurs a lesson on the rules of the sky.

The workshop Saturday, Jan. 9 at The Burg restaurant is free of charge, but attendees are asked to register online.


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