New drone rules hamper recreational use in Northern communities

Some drone-owners in the North are looking to sell their machines after federal regulations were released Thursday prohibiting their use within nine kilometres of an airport. That radius encompasses the entirety of most Northern communities.

Federal regulations now prohibit use within 9 km of an airport

An aerial photo taken by Kristian Binder of the Aboriginal Day celebrations last year at Jim Koe Park in Inuvik, N.W.T. New regulations now prohibit the use of drones within nine kilometres of an airport, which would encompass all of Inuvik. (submitted by Kristian Binder)

Some drone-owners in the North are looking to sell their machines after federal regulations were released Thursday prohibiting their use within nine kilometres of an airport.

Drones also need to be at least 75 metres away from people and buildings.

Like the vast majority of northern communities, all of Inuvik is within nine kilometres of its airport. Now flying a drone in the town could get you a $3,000 fine.

"Basically, if I'm following the rules, I won't be able to fly in Inuvik anymore," says Kristian Binder.

Binder bought his Phantom 3 4K drone a few years ago to take aerial photos of people at community events such as the Muskrat Jamboree.

Now he says he'll probably put it back in its box.

"I'll just be able to do landscape photography out of town away from people, away from buildings."

Kristian Binder captured the autumn colours of the Mackenzie Delta at Inuvik last fall using his drone. (submitted by Kristian Binder)

Murray Lundberg, a travel writer in Yukon, says he uses drones at places like the Haines Summit and the Top of the World Highway to get spectacular video. But he said he can see that there are conflicts when they're used in populated areas.

"There are too many people that are flying in a way that annoys people or just plain makes them mad, so hopefully these regulations and the fact that there is a $3,000 fine for violating them will take care of that issue."

Lundberg says exactly how, and who will enforce the regulations is unclear at this point but he expects they will only be enforced when drones are used improperly.

Licensed exceptions

There are exceptions to the rules for people with commercial or research drone licences.

Pablo Saravanja is part of Aerials North, a drone cinematography company based in Yellowknife. He says that he can operate his drone anywhere, as long as he clears it with the authorities first.

"Anything we want to do, we need to apply for an exemption, and to apply for that exemption we need proof of insurance and industry knowledge. We need to essentially create a pre-flight plan."

With the new rules, commercial licences might become more popular in the territories. There's already someone trying to start a course for later this summer in Inuvik.

with files from Dave Croft


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