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8 Jun

Transport Canada Mulls Drone Regulations And Their Potential Impact On You

Wednesday, June 8, 2016James CookCanadian Aviation Regulations, Criminal Code, Corporate LawTransport Canada, Drone

Drones, as they are commonly known, or “Unmanned Air Vehicles” (Transport Canada), are becoming frequent sites over our private yards, public parks, and places where one might least expect them. Photography shot by drones ranges from the breathtaking (nycdronefilmfestival.com/) to the breathtakingly stupid (go to YouTube and search for near miss footage of commercial airliners, including at the Vancouver International Airport). Currently available in Canadian stores and online without age or licencing restrictions, recreational drones are increasingly accessible at a broad range of prices. It is estimated that in 2015 alone, one million recreational drones were purchased in North America. 

But what are your obligations as a drone pilot and what are the rights of others whose spaces are being invaded by these machines? Although the rules are still relatively unclear, Canadian officials are working to fill in the gaps in drone law and regulation. Last year, Transport Canada sought the public’s input on drone regulation. It is also looking to the United States for assistance in creating new laws.

Some of the new laws being considered include registration for certain types of drones and a requirement for identifying markers on the drones so that law enforcement can take action when necessary. The Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. recently mandated that owners register their drones or they could face fines of up to $27,500.00. In Canada, you must apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate for any drone weighing more than 35 kg (much larger than the typical recreational drone).

While drones may seem relatively small and harmless, they can interfere with aircraft or cause property damage, such as in one recent case where a drone crashed into a vehicle causing $1,000 worth of damage. Currently Canadians can face fines of up to $25,000 for improper use of a drone, including acts such as “wilfully violating airspace.”

Transport Canada guidelines advise that drones should be flown 9 kilometres away from any airports, no higher than 90 meters from the ground and 150 meters away from people, buildings and vehicles. See the Transport Canada website for further safety guidelines and a helpful flow chart, including the distinction of regulation between commercial and recreational drones. 

In addition to the guidelines set by Transport Canada, drone enthusiasts should keep in mind that the apparent freedom of the airspace in which to fly a drone is nonetheless subject to the Canadian Aviation Regulations, and other laws such as those found in the Criminal Code and municipal, provincial, and territorial laws regarding trespass and privacy. Given the increasing prevalence of drones, we may reasonably expect an increase in disputes regarding the air rights over private property and invasion of privacy. Finally, notwithstanding how annoying a buzzing drone may be above your head, do not follow the example of a Kentucky man and shoot down the motorized invader with a firearm. 

James Cook

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