Drones banned in national parks, with exceptions
A tangle of regulations and rules for commercial users, and an outright ban on recreational use
Rules around the use of drones in Canada are confusing enough that even finding an answer to whether recreational use of the unmanned aircraft is allowed in national parks resulted in mixed messages from Parks Canada.
In the end, however, the answer is: they're not.
- Drones get more popular, and the rules are getting stricter
- Commercial drone use jumps and keeps regulators busy
If you're a commercial user and have acquired a special flight certificate, or exemption from Transport Canada, you may be able to get permission from a specific park superintendent for a specific flight — granted it meets a list of permitted uses.
"It's way easier for me to jump in an airplane and do a flight than it is, for instance, to do this flight today," said Mitch Drzymala, president of Automated Aeronautics, while out flying one of his commercial drones in Banff, Alta.
Tania Peters, a spokesperson for the rocky mountain parks, told CBC News that each park sets its own rules for the use of drones, but that turns out not to be the case, according to Parks Canada.
The National Park Air Access Regulations does not allow aircraft — drones and manned vehicles alike — to take off or land in national parks, except with permission from a park superintendent.
Drones can be used, if authorized, for "natural or cultural resource management," safety, law enforcement or administrative purposes, including tourism, outreach and education, according to the regulations.
"As a result, the recreational use of drones, including model aircraft, is prohibited in national parks," said Christina Tricomi, a spokesperson for the Banff Field Unit.
There have been five reported incidents of drones being operated improperly in Banff this year.
Transport Canada rules
In the end, Transport Canada is the federal agency that sets rules around aircraft. It places drone users into two categories: professional and recreational.
Regardless of which category a user falls into, they have to be wary of myriad regulations to operate their craft.
In 2014, there were just over 1,600 commercial users certified by Transport Canada, demonstrating the high threshold needed to operate a drone commercially.
Denis Guindon, the director general of aviation safety and oversight with Transport Canada, says beyond the federal hoops one has to jump through, drones users in either category must also adhere to municipal and provincial rules.
The agency plans to revamp its regulations on the use of drones in 2016.