Nfld. & Labrador

Gander airport concerned about recreational drones

The increasing use of personal and recreational drones has security people at Gander International Airport worrying about safety.
There have been close calls between drones and planes in this province in the last couple of months. (Francois Mori/Associated Press)

The increasing use of personal and recreational drones has security people at Gander International Airport worrying about safety.

Brian Hicks, head of safety and security at Gander Airport, said while the commercial use of drones is regulated, personal and recreational use isn't.

Basically its a common sense approach that people need to take because… they can inflict  damage for sure.- Brian Hicks

He hopes a Transport Canada review of drone usage leads to better regulation and he'd like the focus to be on education and using drones safely.

"We did have a couple of incidents in Newfoundland recently and one that was fairly close to our airport within ten miles," said Hicks. "It's a serious concern and education for these drone operators is important."

Hicks said he expects to see a change in regulations within the next year or so, but people need to exercise caution and follow the current safety guidelines that are set out by Transport Canada.

Commercial rules eliminate drone use anywhere inside Gander's town limits. (CBC)

"They recommend … no flying within nine kilometres of an airport, you shouldn't fly it any higher than 90 metres," Hicks told CBC's Central Morning Show. "Basically it's a common sense approach that people need to take because these things are a toy and they're fun to use, but they can inflict damage for sure."

Hicks said failure to comply with these recommendations can lead to serious circumstances and even criminal charges if an accident was to occur.  

"They're not really heavy, but some can be fairly large. No doubt there would be damage inflicted on the aircraft and it could really cause a serious incident with an airplane," said Hicks. "It's like everything I guess, if they don't follow the safety recommendations and if you endanger flight and you are a contributing factor to an accident you can be charged under the criminal code."

Hicks said commercial rules eliminate drone use anywhere inside Gander's town limits but any operator needs to be aware of their surroundings no matter where they are.

Hicks also added that people need to careful when recording footage using their drones. If amateur footage was to get used commercially in advertising, for example, it could put a person in situation where they've operated commercially without approval.

For Hicks, the bottom line is safety. He would like to see an education program online and  a certification process for operators. 

He also said the Gander Airport is planning to meet with the Town of Gander to partner on a local awareness campaign.



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