Heads up! Heed new drone rules — especially you 'out-of-the-box-flyers'

College of the North Atlantic instructor Jeff Ducharme says responsible operators already know the regulations.

Journalism program's drone instructor says responsible operators already know rules

The federal government has released updated regulations for the use of drone aircraft. The changes come into effect June 1. (Shutterstock/Wondervisuals)

New federal drone regulations announced this week are largely "preaching to the choir," says an instructor at the College of the North Atlantic, whose journalism program was the first in the country to incorporate drones into the curriculum. 

"Unfortunately, what's going to happen is the responsible operators, commercial and the hobby flyer, they're already aware of the regulations, and they follow the regulations," said Jeff Ducharme.

The drone operators Ducharme refers to as "out-of-the-box flyers" — "take it out of the box, turn it on, throw it up in the air and go" — aren't likely to pay attention to the new regulations, even if introducing them was a responsible approach for the government to take, he said.

"It'll be interesting to see if they can actually reach these operators who are really only interested in getting likes on YouTube."

Regulations come into effect June 1

The new federal regulations, announced Tuesday and coming into effect June 1, require drone operators to get a valid drone pilot certificate and fly only drones that are marked and registered.

Online tests for drone pilot certificates are available, Ducharme said, and can be taken as many times as required in order to pass. The idea, he said, is that people will learn the rules as they take, and potentially retake, the test.

Jeff Ducharme, an instructor in the College of the North Atlantic's journalism program, says responsible drone operators already follow the rules. (Anthony Germain/CBC News)

Drones must stay below an altitude of 122 metres, the updated regulations say, which is higher than the current restriction of 90 metres.

Just as in current regulations, drones must stay far from other aircraft and be operated at least 5.6 kilometres away from airports and 1.9 kilometres away from aerodromes. In St. John's that would include sites like the Coast Guard station and the helipad at Health Sciences Centre.

"Any place where a plane or a helicopter can land, any kind of aircraft could land, is considered an aerodrome," Ducharme said.

Stay away from emergencies

Additionally, drone operators must stay away from emergency operations and advertised events, including parades, outdoor concerts and forest fires. Transport Canada already issues a notice to airmen for events like a forest fire or train derailment, Ducharme said, requiring any aircraft — drones included — to stay away to ensure rescue operations aren't interrupted.

Drones come in a variety of sizes, with different licences available for their operation. (Anthony Germain/CBC News)

"Every time a drone is spotted in one of these areas, they have to land their aircraft," he said.

"So if those aircrafts are landed for half an hour, an hour, how much forest burned while they're sitting on the ground because somebody wants to fly their drone to get a few likes on YouTube?"

The new regulations recommend but do not require liability insurance for drone operators.

As before, drone operators are not allowed to fly drones while they're intoxicated. Also, drone operators are prohibited from using drones to transport live animals, Ducharme said.

"I'm not really sure what to make of that."

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