British Columbia

BCIT Drone Fair: enthusiasts get latest in technology, regulations

"You name it, you can do it with a drone," say organizers of the BCIT Drone Fair 2016.

UAVs now being used for mapping, SAR, humanitarian aid to inspection of pipelines, mines

Cool UAVs and the rules swirling around them 2:04

Drone enthusiasts saw them, flew them and talked all about a technology that is growing in popularity and uses.

"From mapping to search and rescue to humanitarian aid to inspection of pipelines, mining — you name it, you can do it," said Drone Fair 2016 organizer Steve Watts.

And it's true the technology is being used for good, like tracking missing motorbikes or killer whales, but it has also gotten in the way of firefighting and airline flights. As well, drones are being increasingly targeted by thieves.

The goal of the Drone Fair at BCIT is to educate people already using or interested in drones about best practices and safety, but also to dream about the potential applications of the amazing little machines.

David Bird is a biologist, but also the founding editor of the Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems. He spoke at the fair about how drones can benefit animal research.

"These machines have a tremendous amount of potential in society, not just in wildlife but also in first responders," he said.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have launched into recreational and commercial popularity over the last few years — organizers of the fair say 4.3 million drones were sold in 2015 worldwide — but they've also flown into some legal grey areas with regards to safety and privacy.

"People need to be educated, so they have to understand safety, they need to understand proper aircraft maintenance," said Watts.

Regulators attended the fair to discuss upcoming changes to how recreational and commercial users can operate UAVs in Canada under federal legislation.

"It'll include things like pilot permits, it'll include standards for equipment, and it'll include operating rules," said Eric Edward with Unmanned Systems Canada. "And it'll make it much easier to be a commercial operator of a drone as if you're any part of the aviation sector."

Those changes could come as early as 2017.

​Currently in Canada, people wanting to fly drones for fun can do so without permission as long as their machine weighs less than 35 kilograms, while those using drones for work-related purposes may need to contact Transport Canada or obtain a special flight operations certificate.

​Chinese drone company DJI was a sponsor of the event, along with Chilliwack's Flying Cameras.


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