Nova Scotia

Halifax drone company says it may be time for rules on safe flying

Summer is here and there's a buzz in the air. And that buzz you're hearing may not be a bee — but a drone flying close by.

Richmond, B.C., has banned drones and Toronto is studying whether to bring in rules

Recently, a drone was seen hovering near people at Ribfest in Halifax. (CBC)

Summer is here and there's a buzz in the air. And that buzz you're hearing may not be a bee — but a drone flying close by.

"They are becoming very, very popular, they are becoming very readily available," says John Liddard, a recreational drone flyer and one of the co-owners of Flitelab, a full-service drone company.

With the prices of drones dropping dramatically and machines ready to almost fly right out of the box, hobbyists are taking them increasingly to public places. Recently they've been seen hovering above people dancing at the Halifax Jazz Festival, Ribfest and among tourists at Peggys Cove.

Hobbyists flying their machines above crowds is not illegal, but those "cowboy drones" may have to be lassoed because Liddard says drones — commercial or recreational — can be dangerous.

"[It's] a machine with four Cuisinart blades that are spinning around at a very, very high speed and they can be quite hazardous if they come into contact with a person, like the operator's fingers or anyone in the public," he said while referring to a mini-drone or racer.

John Liddard is a recreational drone flyer and one of the co-owners of Flitelab, a full-service drone company in Halifax. (CBC)

In late May, pop star Enrique Iglesias's hand was sliced when he grabbed a flying drone at a concert. And just this week, the London Free Press reported that a drone fell out of the sky and crashed onto a police cruiser.

While there are strict Transport Canada rules in place regarding the use of commercial drones in airspace and in public areas, Liddard says the practice of flying recreational drones falls in a grey zone, neither legal nor illegal.

"It technically is legal. More precisely, it's not illegal, in that sense. There's a bit of a grey area with regards to the regulation and management of these devices … from a recreational perspective," he said.

The city of Richmond, B.C., has banned them from city parks and school grounds. Toronto is studying the issue.

Liddard says it may be time for Halifax to consider bringing in rules to control where they fly.

"It would be appropriate for officials in Halifax to be aware of the issue and properly, fully understand the nature of these devices and these machines in that particular sense," he said.

"There could be value in considering … where and where they are not allowed to be able to be flown in that sense, just out of public safety."

He says the safest place to fly drones is in a designated area. He says there is a marked area in the field behind the Shannon Park School in Dartmouth. It's a field approved by the Model Aircraft Association of Canada to use by all types of radio controlled aircraft, including drones.

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