Transport minister lays out new rules for drone users amid safety concerns
Published Thursday, March 16, 2017 10:33AM EDT Last Updated Thursday, March 16, 2017 1:39PM EDT
The federal government is laying out new temporary rules for drone users amid safety concerns that the small aircraft are coming too close to airports.
The Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, said Thursday that the current regulations for recreational drone operators haven’t done enough to curb “very worrying incidents” of near-collisions between drones and aircrafts across Canada.
Garneau said that the province has decided to step in to “improve aviation safety.”
“I am taking strong measures now, before a drone hits an airplane and causes a catastrophic accident,” he told reporters from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
“That’s the kind of nightmare scenario that keeps awake at night as your transport minister.”
Until official regulations are put forward in June, Garneau said it’s necessary to implement stricter rules on current operators.
Effective immediately, recreational drones are no longer permitted within 75 metres of buildings, vehicles or people, or within 9 kilometres of any airport, heliport, seaplane base or airstrip where aircrafts take off and land.
Garneau says recreational drones must stay away from restricted airspace, active forest fires and any site where first responders are tending to an emergency.
Owners and operators of the recreational drones will also be required to mark or tag their drone with their contact information.
Drones will continue to be prohibited from flying higher than 90 metres above the ground without first obtaining a special permit from Transport Canada.
Operators who break these rules are subject to fines up to $3,000 and up to $15,000 for corporations.
Commercial drone operators are unaffected by the rules, Garneau said, as they already have regulations in place.
Those who fly with the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada in approved zones are also exempt from the new rules.
Unlike commercial drone users, recreational drone users do not need certification to operate a drone.
Before today, Garneau said there were loose “do’s and don’ts” for recreational drone use but operators didn’t face repercussions for ignoring them.
He said those who fly drones should follow rules just as pilots do.
"If you are a pilot, you have very strict rules that you have to work by, so it is also important that we establish strict rules for other unmanned objects that are going to go into the airspace, because they are going to be sharing the airspace," Garneau said.
"Secondly, those objects that are being controlled can sometimes, if they fail or they're used improperly, can do damage simply by falling out of the sky and we have had incidents of that."
Garneau stressed the urgent need to curb recreational drones as incidents have risen dramatically over the past few years.
According to Transport Canada, there were 148 reported incidents involving recreational drones in 2016, which is up from 85 incidents in 2015 and 41 incidents in 2014.
Back in December, a pair of commercial passenger flights were forced to hold over Lake Ontario after a drone was spotted flying near Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
Transport Canada said the drone was flying “in a reckless manner.”
Garneau emphasized that drones are capable of doing things such as monitoring wildlife or providing emergency crews with aerial views of disaster zones, but that operators should still be required to use caution.
“But like any new technology, drones must be used with care, and we cannot wait for something bad to happen before we react.”
Garneau said the public will be able to provide feedback on the draft regulations once they’re formulated.
With files from the Canadian Press.