WATCH: Japanese police debut anti-drone squad
As drones (or ‘UAV’s as they’re properly known) become an ever more present part of daily life, the debate about how to best regulate and control them has been heating up.
Last week, the Japanese government raised the stakes, debuting a specific anti-drone police squad, complete with a drone-catching-drone.
It comes after a drone carrying radioactive material landed on the Japanese PM’s roof last spring.
The squad will now be tasked with paroling important buildings, and will deploy their own drone if an illegal UAV flies nearby.
Here in B.C., rogue drones have been a growing problem. Transport Canada says fully half of the incidents involving UAV’s it’s investigated this year have been in the province.
And at the Vancouver International Airport, there have been repeated incidents of people flying drones near the flight path of commercial aircraft, something airport officials say is extremely dangerous.
There have also been several reports this year of “drone peeping toms” in locations around the province.
B.C. drone squad?
Despite the growing issues, there appears to be no anti-drone squad in the works for B.C.
Local authorities have instead opted for public information campaigns and legislation.
YVR today launched a new campaign reminding drone pilots of a ban on flying within 9km of the airport, and threatening violators with a $25,000 fine. The authority will place “no drone zone” signs at key areas around Sea Island.
In September, the province launched it’s own publicity campaign to remind operators of existing rules, fine warnings, and a promise to draft new legislation in 2016.
The Federal government requires special permission to fly drones over 25 kg, has published extensive guidelines for operation of smaller craft, and is currently reviewing its regulations.
But when asked about a plan to force rogue devices from the sky, officials with the Provincial Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resources referred the question to the RCMP.
The Mounties are known to have experimented with drones for video applications, and say they’re open to researching and occasionally testing new tools to deal with emerging technology, but wouldn’t discuss “drone countermeasures.” And Vancouver Police say they own no drones, and have no plan to acquire any.
Problems with enforcement
The question, of course, is how to enforce the regulations without new tools.
David Carlos, who operates a UAV training school in Victoria, says he fears real enforcement won’t appear until there’s a tragedy.
“God forbid, but there will be an accident. And the guy will get caught, the handcuffs will go on, and there will be a media public spectacle, and they will be carted off to jail to spend a life sentence because they either brought an aircraft down or they could have.”
He says he’s been calling for police drones for some time, because the technology is becoming easier and easier to access.
“It’s nice to think that everybody will obey the letter of the law, but that’s not reality. People will break the law, they will take these machines, and they will abuse them. It’s just human nature.”
Carlos says the Japanese idea looks impractical, but he says it would be fairly simple for police to own their own drones which could be used to follow a rogue device back to its operator to make an arrest.