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 2017 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


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

In December 2014, 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
Drone at the White HouseIn this file photo from January 26, 2015, secret Service officers search the south grounds of the White House in Washington, after an unmanned aerial drone, was found on the grounds during the middle of the night. (Photo courtesy Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

In 2015, 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. 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.

5. "The future is creepy"

One summer 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 30 metres from people, buildings, structures, or vehicles if your drone weighs less than 1 kilogram.

6. Drones flying too high

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 5.5 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.

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