Got a permit for that drone? City of Toronto considering restrictions

WATCH ABOVE: Drone daddy? How far some people go to keep tabs on their children. Minna Rhee reports. 

TORONTO – City hall’s executive committee has passed a motion by Coun. James Pasternak to take a look at the use of drones in Toronto’s public spaces.

Other Canadian cities have already explored restrictions for drone use within city limits. And now Toronto will follow suit.

In his member motion, titled Safety in the Air – Governing Drones in Toronto’s Outdoor Spaces, Pasternak outlined five points to explore:

  •  Any current policies that can be leveraged to ensure the safety of Toronto’s airspace
  •  Any safety concerns or potential liability issues the City could face due to the use of drones on City of Toronto property
  •  Investigating the need for possible restrictions on the use of drones and photography above City of Toronto outdoor recreation and park facilities
  •  The potential to permit the use of drones in designated spaces
  •  Restrictions on the types and/or models of drones that can be operated in the City of Toronto

“The City of Toronto is responsible for an enormous amount of outdoor spaces including road, sidewalks, parks and recreation facilities such as soccer fields, rinks, basketball courts and golf courses,” reads the motion. “City Council is seeking clarity for the use of drones over City of Toronto outdoor spaces.”

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The matter is set to be considered by city council May 5.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, have exploded in popularity, for personal and professional use.

Google and Amazon have explored using drones for delivery, authorities use them for investigations and patrolling borders, and they can be a useful tool for wedding or real estate videography.

Drones equipped with cameras can be a set of eyes in places humans normally can’t see all that easily. The privacy concerns surrounding drones remains a hotly debated subject — drones could be used for peeking into private spaces such as homes and backyards for less-than-innocent purposes.

In public however, snapping a picture of the CN Tower or a Blue Jays game is perfectly legal, regardless of who’s in the shot. A Toronto man appeared before the executive committee Wednesday to argue that when it comes to public spaces, privacy is not a right.

Safety concerns over drones include the devices flying too close to airports and restricted airspaces, and the federal government has issued regulations for users.

A Global News report found that due to existing Transport Canada restrictions, most of Toronto is a no-fly zone for drones.

READ MORE: Drones increasingly buzzing too close to Canadian airports

Safety guidelines for recreational drone pilots on the Transport Canada website include always keeping the drone within sight, not flying higher than 90 metres, and not flying within 150 metres from people, buildings and vehicles, or within 9 km of an airport.

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This last guideline might surprise many drone users: for example, much of Toronto is within 9 km of an airport.

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The pink circles in the map above show areas within 9 km of an airport or heliport, and the City of Toronto is outlined in green.

According to Transport Canada’s guidelines, the only part of Toronto that’s not off-limits would be Scarborough. And even there, the further guidelines of not flying within 150 metres of people, animals, buildings, structures and vehicles would definitely limit where you could fly your drone while following government guidelines.

When a device is over 35 kilograms, a special permit is required.

With files from Global News’ Leslie Young

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