Drones taking off as a hobby in Saskatchewan

A booming hobby has more people in Saskatchewan taking to the skies.

Increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles is causing some concerns about safety and privacy

Nick Biblow captured this photo at the Saskatoon Ex using his drone. (Photo by Nick Biblow)

A booming hobby has more people in Saskatchewan taking to the skies.

Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are more accessible and cheaper than ever.

Saskatoon's Nick Biblow loves the latest technology, a passion that led him to buy a drone online. An avid photographer on the ground, Biblow's newest hobby is allowing him to capture stunning images.

"For photography you can get to a completely different angle," Biblow said. "I can't go up there without renting a plane and even then they can't fly that low."

Nick Biblow gets his drone ready for flight in Saskatoon. (Peter Mills/CBC)

Biblow said people are attracted to the photos he captures with his drone.

"I don't do it for profit or anything, so it's good to see that people like it," he said.

On a clear and calm day, you might find Biblow operating his UAV in Rotary Park. While remote control aircrafts are nothing new, a flying drone in the city frequently garners a lot of attention.

“First three questions are always: How far does it go? How long does it fly? And do you have a camera on that thing?" Biblow said, laughing. "Every time, it never fails.”

Biblow said his drone will go about one kilometre and is able to fly for about 20 to 25 minutes.

Drone sales flying high

The UAV craze is also hitting Regina. Derek Kanak, owner of Remote Control Hobbies, said drone sales are taking off in the past few months.

"At first, it would be one person a week," Kanak said. "The next it would be two people a week. And then the week after it's three, four, five, ten. It just keeps growing."

Kanak said the majority of his customers are "everyday, guy off the street." He believes the majority of drone consumers just want to get them up in the air to take pictures and have some fun.

“It's how they fly," he said. "It's the technology inside of them. They have flight stabilization. They're quite easy to fly. A normal helicopter takes you months to learn how to fly. These things you can pretty much pop them up out of the box.”

Regulations and common sense

Saskatoon's Kevin Lauscher has been flying UAVs for years.

Lauscher, who works at Draganfly Innovations Inc. in Saskatoon, said industrial use of drones is also evolving. Everyone from real estate agents, city developers, police, and fire fighters are finding new ways to use drones. Lauscher said it's because you don't need cranes, scaffolding, or a helicopter to gather images and information.

Saskatoon's Kevin Lauscher has been flying UAVs for years. (Peter Mills/CBC)

"You instantaneously have access to video that you're doing and some people are very good with it, other people are not good with it at all," Lauscher said.

There are growing concerns about how people are using their drones. Recently, airports in Vancouver and Toronto have reported people using UAVs to fly too close to aircrafts.

While the Saskatoon Airport Authority said it hasn't had any problems, Lauscher is concerned about people following regulations.

"You don't want to fly over top of people," he said. "You don't want to fly really overtop of roadways and distracting people. Don't be peering into people's backyards. So use some common sense and think of the consequences of what would happen if the system fails."

Drone operators only need a special flight certificate if used commercially. Last year, Transport Canada issued 945 certificates, which is up from 155 in 2011.

Biblow maintains he'll continue to fly his drone for fun, but he's also concerned about the future.

"Everybody is getting into it," Biblow said. "It's fairly cheap now and I feel like that's going to affect rules and regulations in the future for a lot of users. A few bad people making poor choices might cause some problems for everyone else."

Nick Biblow captured this photo using his drone. (Photo by Nick Biblow)


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