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New drone regulations questioned

Federal government will require all drone operators to have a pilot’s certificate
Pixabay/Black Press File photo

A Red Deer drone enthusiast questions whether new federal regulations governing the popular airborne vehicles are needed.

“There’s already a ton of regulations,” said the man, adding there have been flying ceiling limitations and other safety measures in place for years. He asked that his name not be used.

“It’s like everything else. People who want to go out and fart around with their drones are still going to do it.

“It’s just an extra pain in the butt for people who are already being responsible,” said the man, who sends his drone aloft when he’s visiting the family farm in the Strathmore area.

Federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau rolled out the new regulations in Montreal on Tuesday. They are designed to improve the security of aviation and the public, he said.

Transport Canada says the number of drone incidents posing a risk to aviation safety increased to 135 in 2017, from 38 when data collection began in 2014.

At U.K.’s Gatwick Airport, hundreds of flights were cancelled before Christmas because a drone was spotted repeatedly flying nearby, posing a safety risk.

In Red Deer, a man had his drone seized after it inadvertently flew near the flight path of a STARS helicopter in March 2017. The drone operator apologized on YouTube, saying he was just using his drone to take video of downtown buildings when the helicopter arrived quickly.

The new rules require drones to be registered and that the operators of larger drones be certified. Regulations apply to all drones between 250 grams and 25 kilograms.

Drones must be kept below 400 metres and be kept away from all air traffic. They cannot be flown within 5.6 kilometres of an airport and 1.9 kilometres of a heliport, such as the one STARS uses at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Pilot certificates have also been introduced for drone users, who must be at least 14 years old and can pass an online test. A more advanced certificate is also available for drone users 16 years and older. They must pass an exam and flight review.

Drone operators must also be sober.

Most of the changes are due to go into effect June 1.

The Red Deer operator said other than requirements that drones be kept below a certain height, and the private property is far enough from an airport, he doesn’t see why regulations are needed on private land.

“As long as a farm is however far from an airport, and you’re not going above a certain ceiling, if you want to crash into your own house, go for it,” he said with a chuckle.

“I’m almost skeptical of more and more of this regulation that is next to impossible to enforce anyway.

“I think as long as people are smart about it, we didn’t have a problem, especially on private property.”

In Red Deer, previous Transport Canada drone rules will apply until June.

The old rules said drones must be flown below 90 metres and drones 250 grams to one kilogram had to be flown at least 30 metres away from vehicles, vessels and the public. For heavier drones, the distance increased to 75 metres.

They also can’t be flown at night or in clouds, must be within 500 metres and within eyesight. The maximum fine is $3,000.

The man anticipates the new regulations, which carry penalties of up to $3,000 for individuals and $25,000 for corporations, and even prison, will likely mean fewer drone sales.

“Business-wise, it will probably scare more people away than anything,” he said. “People will see that big number there, that $25,000 fine and prison, and people will just, in general, be less likely to want to play around with them, I think.”