Drone flying has been a popular hobby for many people over the last few years. Drones are less bulky than remote controlled airplanes, both in terms of the flying machine itself as well as the controlling mechanism.
Drone flying regulations were introduced in Canada (March 2017) and penalties were included as part of the rules. Exercise of the enforcement of these rules and penalties are few.
Under the current rules, drone flyers do not need special permission from Transport Canada when they fly a drone for fun and it weighs 35 kilograms or less. Otherwise, they must get a Special Flight Operations Certificate from Transport Canada. Violators can be fined up to $5,000 individually or $25,000 for a corporation. Jail times are also possible if flying is done in restricted places, putting airplane at risk, or endangering anyone's safety.
Some of the restrictions include: No flying above 90 metres; within 75 metres of buildings, vehicles, and people; at night, within 9 kilometres of somewhere aircraft take off or land; without contact information marked on the drone itself.
These happy days with relatively simplistic rules are over for drone flying pilots! Starting on June 1, 2019 new rules will come into effect defining more details and licensing requirement along with very stiff fines. Drone pilots must carry a valid “drone pilot certificate” and only fly drones that are marked and “registered”.
There are two kinds of drone pilot certificates – “basic” and “advanced”. For “basic” certificate, you need to take an online examination for basic operations from the Internet. For “advanced” certificate, one has to take the online examination for advanced operations and also complete a flight review. There will be a fee of $25 payable on line. Advanced certificate holders must complete seminar and further training over a two-year cycle to keep their certification valid.
I looked at what qualify as “basic” operations and immediately spotted how this category almost never apply to any drone flyer. One has to meet all of the following conditions :
1) Fly the drone in uncontrolled airspace
2) Fly it more than 30 metres (100 feet) horizontally from bystanders
3) Never fly it over bystanders. Bystander refers to anyone that is not directly associated with operating the drone. Among others, this excludes the pilot and crew.
Unless the drone flyer operates the drone alone, taking a friend along and standing within shouting distance as an observer almost automatically result in the violation of the rules for basic operating certification.
Under the new rules, all drones or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) with a maximum takeoff weight of 250 grams up to and including 25 kilograms must be registered. There will be a charge of $5 for this online registration. One will also need a Special Flight Operations Certificate to fly at an advertised event; to fly a drone over 25 kg, and to fly a drone above 122 metres (400 feet) - approximately a 30-storey building.
The new rules stipulate the different penalties for infractions. They ranged from $1,000 to $3,000 for individuals and $5,000 to $15,000 for corporations. However, if more than one rule is broken then one can end up with multiple penalties.
New rules are necessary to avoid accidents with aircraft operations and other incidents. Heathrow airport operations were recently interfered, resulting in the disruption of the travel plans of more than 100,000 passengers. The public is not consulted properly as the new rules do not appear to be reasonable and practical. The industry and hobbyists should lobby the government to achieve a win-win for both sides.
Today, many people are not even aware of the current rules and obeying them! As it stands, the drone flying hobbyists will come crashing down when June 1, 2019 arrives with new regulations and multiple penalties.
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