British Columbia

Drone seen flying in path of landing planes at Vancouver airport

Richmond RCMP are investigating after a drone was reported flying dangerously close to aircraft at Vancouver's YVR airport on Monday.

'It's incredibly dangerous and incredibly stupid,' said police, who may pursue charges

Security expert downplays attack scenario, but irresponsible hobbyists already pose problem 2:22

Richmond RCMP are investigating after a drone was reported flying dangerously close to aircraft at Vancouver's YVR airport on Monday.

A concerned citizen spotted the drone, a remote-controlled aircraft, adjacent to the glide path of planes landing at Vancouver airport.

RCMP Sgt. Cam Kowalski said police want to publicize the dangers of remote-controlled aircraft, also known as UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles.

"It puts people in danger and puts them at risk, puts the community at risk," said Kowalski. "We take these incidents very seriously."

"It's incredibly dangerous and incredibly stupid, so we will investigate this every way that we possibly can."

Canada’s Transportation agency is already investigating an earlier incident, in which video — shot from a drone — was posted on YouTube showing a landing passenger jet at Vancouver airport.

In another case, an Air Canada pilot reported a drone came within 50 metres of his landing aircraft, and in May, a drone crashed on a movie set in Vancouver.

Aviation lawyer Lee Mauro is concerned about the lack of rules in Canada and questions what would happen if a drone were to strike a cockpit window or be sucked into an engine.

"Our aviation industry is heavily regulated and is quite safe. But [planes] are not tested for a 75 pound carbon fibre drone flying into the engine or the windscreen," said Mauro.

"I think that is a real safety issue, and we're seeing it now."

Under Canadian rules, if a drone is under 35 kilograms, operators are only required to maintain a line of sight and avoid getting too close to congested areas or restricted airspace like an airport.

A drone equipped with a small video camera takes flight in Vancouver. (CBC)

In the U.S., the rules are much more strict. Drones cannot travel within eight kilometres of an airport without permission from the control tower.

"The technology at this point is sort of surpassing the regulation, it's moving at a pace that has significantly outpaced the legislative ability to keep up to it," said Mauro.

A YVR airport spokesperson told CBC News the safety of airspace is paramount to the airport and making sure planes land safely is its number one priority.

Meanwhile, the RCMP say if they can track down the person who was flying drone near YVR Monday, they will consider laying charges.

According to Kowalski, that could mean a substantial fine under the Aeronautics Act or a penalty in line with the Canadian Aviation Regulations.

Provincially, he says, police will be pursuing a myriad of potential charges, including mischief and criminal negligence.


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