There is some irony that it was an astronaut who announced a new set of rules limiting where and how people can fly drones in Canada. Federal Transportation Minister and Canada’s most famous space hero, Marc Garneau, announced new rules for flying recreational drones, effective immediately. The rules provide for a fine up to $3,000 for anyone caught flying a drone:
- Higher than 90 metres.
- Within 75 metres of buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals or people.
- More than 500 metres away from the user.
- At night, in clouds or somewhere you can't see it.
- Within nine kilometres of somewhere aircraft take off or land, or a forest fire.
- Without your name, address and phone number marked on the drone itself.
- Over forest fires, emergency response scenes or controlled airspace.
The new rules will help in situations where drones are a nuisance to other people or pose a safety risk. Anyone who has been buzzed by a drone, or had their property damaged or felt that their privacy had been violated by a camera drone, may rest a bit easier. Farmers and ranchers have also complained about drones scaring animals and even causing stampedes and injuries.
But drones can cause much more harm than a simple nuisance. The US military has reported that one of their allies used a Patriot missile, which are usually reserved for intercepting other missiles travelling faster than the speed of sound, was used to take out a recreational drone worth about $200. Although the military released few details, they did report a Patriot missile is worth about $3 million. The US military is understandably tight-lipped about the details this incident as repeat incidents could get very expensive. Anyone who wished to force the US and it allies to quickly deplete their missile stockpiles could use cheap drones to great effect.
The new rules are not popular with drone users who claim they are unnecessarily restrictive and are aimed at only a few bad apples who fly carelessly. Because of the military and hospital helipads in Halifax, virtually all of the Halifax peninsula and surrounding areas are now no-fly zones under the new rules, although it remains to be seen how strictly they will be enforced.
Another challenge with the new rules will be enforcement. It will be very difficult to judge with the naked eye just how high a drone is flying, or how far away the drone is from the operator. But as with all offences, police will have discretion whether to simply educate and warn drone operators or to fine them. Common sense tells us that ensuring the drone is labelled with its owner's contact information will certainly encourage more responsible flying behaviours.
Do you think the new rules are too restrictive, or do they go far enough? No doubt this will be an area where the government will continue to be challenged to have the laws keep pace with the rapidly developing technology.
By: Peter G. Duke, Articled Clerk
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