B.C. wants drone regulations strengthened
VANCOUVER – British Columbia wants Ottawa to get tough on drones after unmanned aerial vehicles grounded aircraft fighting wildfires this summer.
The province has asked Transport Canada to strengthen regulations around drones and impose stiffer penalties for violators, said Mike Morris, parliamentary secretary to the minister of forests.
The Forests Ministry wants several issues addressed, including privacy, how drones are registered, and certification of drone operators.
A drone flying above a wildfire near Oliver last month grounded eight helicopters and five planes for more than four hours while the fire spread.
“The B.C. government’s message to these people is pretty simple. The presence of a drone near an active wildfire is illegal and we have a zero tolerance policy for people who engage in this sort of activity,” Morris said.
“It’s completely unacceptable and this government won’t tolerate it.”
Current regulations prohibit the use of drones near wildfires, and violators can be fined up to $25,000 and face up to 18 months in jail.
Morris said he’d like to see even stiffer punishments.
“I think the penalties have to be more in line to reflect the serious kind of action,” he said.
Many drone operators don’t get proper training or learn about the laws governing drone use, Morris said.
The B.C. government wants to change that with a public awareness campaign, focusing on working with stores where drones are sold and possibly including information about drone regulations in product packaging.
The province is also looking at revising the Wildfire Act next spring and rules around drones may be a part of that.
Morris said he wasn’t sure what the new rules might look like, but noted they may involve giving police officers or conservation officers the ability to ticket drone operators or get the devices out of the immediate area.