Drones threaten emergency helicopters in Edmonton and London

Close encounters with drones has created concern in several Canadian cities, including an incident in Ottawa that led to two fighter jets being dispatched near the airport.

Edmonton police helicopter comes within 15 metres of drone above cities downtown core

On July 8, an Edmonton police helicopter almost collided with a drone at 1,500 feet.

Emergency helicopters in two Canadian cities reported eerily close encounters with drones, prompting authorities to issue warnings Friday.

Drone sightings were reported in both London and Edmonton last month by pilots of medevac and police helicopters. In Edmonton the drone was 450 meters above ground and within 15 metres of a police pilot.

Close encounters with drones have created concern in several Canadian cities, including an incident in Ottawa that led to two fighter jets being dispatched near the airport.

"There's always that chance that you could harm somebody, that you could interfere with first responders," said Const. Sandasha Bough of the london police.

London: medevac helicopter

Pilots in a London medevac helicopter reported a close call with a drone, while flying in the downtown last month. The device was seen 400 metres in the air.

There was no indication whether a patient was on board, but it raised concerns for the pilots.

Const. Sandasha Bough urged people with drones to learn the rules, including where and how high the devices are allowed to fly.

"As long as you're flying it low to the ground and in an area that is not potentially dangerous," she said. 

Drones are not permitted higher than 90 metres from the ground and must stay away from busy areas. They are also not allowed within 9 km of an airport or helicopter landing area.

Edmonton: police helicopter

Pilots in an Edmonton police helicopter had their own encounter with a drone last month. The department issued a warning Friday, saying the device nearly collided with the helicopter.

Police said the helicopter was responding to call in the downtown area around 10 p.m. on July 8 when the pilot noticed a white drone passing by about 15 metres away.

At the time, the Air-1 helicopter was 450 metres off the ground. Two smaller drones were seen in the same area about 30 minutes later.

"Had the UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and helicopter collided, it certainly could have been catastrophic and potentially fatal for both crew members of Air-1," Const. Brian Griffith said in a news release.

Police are investigating. They say the culprits could face charges under the Criminal Code and the Aeronautics Act.

Transport Canada says drones are not to be flown near moving vehicles, highways, bridges and busy streets, or anywhere the devices could interfere with first responders.

With files from Edmonton