Ottawa is cracking down on consumer drone pilots, with tough new rules about where they can be flown. But will officials be able to enforce them?
The new regulations say unmanned aerial vehicles must be flown below 90 meters; be kept 75 meters from buildings, vehicles, or people; and – as before – kept more than nine kilometres from an airport.
Recreational operators will also be required to mark drones with their contact information.
Violators could be fined up to $3000.
Transport Canada is primarily responsible for enforcing the rules, backed by police, raising questions about whether the resources are in place to catch rogue operators red handed.
“You don’t want to play chicken with the government on this one,” says David Carlos who teaches safe drone flight through Victoria Air Photos.
He says first and foremost he expects the fines to act as a deterrent for most would-be pilots.
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But for those bent on breaking the rules, he says the new regulations are so strict that virtually anyone flying a UAV in a city will be breaking the rules – making them easy to spot, and catch.
“There’s enough people out there that don’t like drones that would report suspicious activity or a drone that’s not legal. It’s pretty blanket now. Take Victoria for example, all of Victoria is in a Class E airspace zone. So it’s like if anybody sees any drone flying around anywhere immediately it will become a target of a suspicious activity.”
He says on top of that, officials are continually improving equipment that will allow them to trace and pinpoint rogue operators.
That said, Carlos says there were a couple of easy changes Ottawa could have made that would make catching illegal flyers much easier.
“Which we’ve seen the United States go ahead with: Registration of all drones. And then clear markings on all drones. So you have to have block letters placed on the side of the drone in a highly visible spot.”
He says he’d also like to see them outfitted with bright flashing LEDs akin to on traditional aircraft, and for commercial pilots to be forced to take flying tests.