With files from the Canadian Press.
The federal transportation minister announced new regulations for drone operators last Wednesday after recent drone sightings at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports caused flight delays and chaos for travellers.
The regulations, which will come into effect June 1, include mandatory registration of drones, a form of licensing, and strict penalties for flying in restricted airspace.
They will apply to all drone operators, whether they fly for fun, work or research, said minister Marc Garneau.
Anyone flying a drone in Canada will also have to pass an online exam and get a pilot’s certificate.
“The big things that jump out…Is there’s no more delineation between recreational and commercial,” said Trevor Bergmann, CEO of Aerovision Canada, a commercial drone operating company in Nova Scotia.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re flying for yourself, it doesn’t matter if its your 15-year-old kid. Everybody has to have a pilot certificate.”
Bergmann explains there will be two levels of testing: basic and advanced. The basic test will be geared toward recreational users, and will be short and simple compared to the more comprehensive advanced test, which will be geared toward commercial users.
Advanced users will also have to take a practical test in the field with a designated flight inspector.
Operators will be required to register their drones and mark them with the registration number. A minimum age limit of 14 for basic operations and 16 for advanced will be introduced as well.
Pilots will have to keep their aircraft below 122 metres — 400 feet — above ground level and stay away from air traffic.
Unless they obtain a special flight certificate from Transport Canada, operators will have to keep their drones within their sight line and at least 30 metres from other people at all times and avoid public events and police security perimeters.
Fines begin at between $1,000 and $3,000 for individuals but can rise much higher for corporations or anyone deliberately breaking the rules. Violators who deliberately fly near an aircraft’s flight path could be subject to fines of up to $25,000 and prison.
“The $25,000 fine, that’s a big shock factor for sure, but if you’re not a corporation or a full commercial user, the fine structure is actually a bit more lenient,” said Bergmann in an interview with NEWS 95.7’s Sheldon MacLeod.
“The one thing that’s really important to note is that Transport Canada is likely going to bump up their enforcement,” he said. “It’s going to be less leniency going forward.”
The RCMP will be enforcing the regulations, and further into 2019, Bergmann suspects local and regional law enforcement will be too.
While the new rules wont come into action until June 1, Bergmann reminds drone operators there are current rules that still need to be followed.
For example, drones cannot be flown within 5.5 kilometres of airports, seaplane bases or places where aircraft take off or land, or within 1.8 kilometres of a heliport, such as the one in Point Pleasant Park, he explains.
Bergmann and Aerovision run drone operating classes for those curious about the technology. More information can be found on their website.
“We’re going to roll more of those out because we anticipate a significant number of people saying I just need to know everything so I can write the test, pass, and do this legally,” he said.