Windsor

'Social impact' of drones hasn't been taken into consideration says law professor

New regulations for drones came into effect in Canada June 1 — and while drone users have had a mixed reaction to the rules, one law professor has said the rules miss out on something big: privacy concerns.

'There's a gap in who is going to enforce these issues'

The impact on the people encountering drones more often is what Canada has to think about says University of Windsor professor Kristen Thomasen. (Chris Francescani/Reuters)

New regulations for drones came into effect in Canada June 1 — and while drone users have had a mixed reaction to the rules, one law professor has said the rules miss out on something big.

Kristen Thomasen, a law professor at the University of Windsor, said the "social impact" of drone technology hasn't been taken into consideration with the new regulations.

"The technology can come down much lower. That means there's a social impact for people who encounter drones in public or semi-public spaces, like backyards," said Thomasen. 

The new federal rules restrict drone usage around airports and in emergency situations. Drone operators also have to take a certification test and register their drones. Drones also can't carry living things under the new regulations. Individuals who break the rules can be fined up to $3,000. 

Thomasen said privacy hasn't been considered. 

"These rules make it more possible for drones to be flown in more spaces," said Thomasen. "For the drone industry that's great. The problem is that means we as individuals will be encountering drones more often."

Kristen Thomasen, a law professor at the University of Windsor, says drone regulations don't address privacy concerns. (Kristen Thomasen/Twitter)

The impact on the people encountering drones more often is what Canada has to think about, said Thomasen, specifically worried about how people will feel if they end up "under surveillance."

"That's not necessarily clearly laid out in the rules of general privacy protection right now."

Thomasen listed examples, such as a drone being flown over an individual's backyard in Kentucky — he was concerned so he went inside and got a shotgun and shot down the drone. In that case, the charge laid against the homeowner was dropped — Kentucky law decided he was protecting his backyard. 

"Don't do that in Canada," joked Thomasen, but added that it's not clear cut what drone operators can do — or who will regulate the social problems that may arise from increased drone use. 

Currently, you can report concerns about drone uses that may or may not invade privacy to Transport Canada, but Thomasen said the federal agency is only concerned with the impact on airports or secure situations. 

"There's a gap in who is going to enforce these issues," said Thomasen. 

And while there is a new, extensive test that drone operators have to take before they can take to the skies, Thomasen said privacy regulations aren't included on the test. 

"Who else is going to step up? I would like to see Transport Canada take a broader understanding of what air safety means," said Thomasen. 

Some cities have brought in their own regulations to monitor drone usage, but Thomasen said it's not "100 per cent clear" if municipalities are allowed to do so. 

Drone pilots must be at least 14 years old for basic operations and 16 for advanced operations, unless supervised by a person with proper qualifications.

With files from Windsor Morning

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