Calgary police warn drone users about ‘confusing legislation’

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WATCH ABOVE: They are buzzing overhead; many of us have no idea. But Calgary police say there has been a massive increase in the number of complaints they have been getting about drones. For the first time, drone use has prompted police to hold a public information session to help clear up some of the confusion around where you can use them. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Nov 19, 2016

For the first time, Calgary Police hosted a public information session to help people understand the rules and regulations surrounding drone use on Saturday.

Officers said there have been an explosion in the number of complaints they’ve been getting about drones, so it was time educate more people about how to use them.

“Within the city, there are two bylaws that we rely upon and that is – you can’t fly from a park in the city and you can’t fly above the street. So that pretty much means anywhere in Calgary you can’t fly,” Sgt. Colin Foster, with the Calgary police traffic section, said.

Sgt. Foster said some of the current legislation surrounding drones is confusing though. He says the idea behind Saturday’s information session is to give people as much information as possible so they can operate the devices safely and within the rules.

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“You can use it on private premises. The problem is, once you exceed the private premises, then you will run afoul of those other rules and regulations. Like the one regarding the streets. You can’t fly within 100 feet of a street, which is pretty much anywhere in the city,” Sgt. Foster said.

Earlier this year,  a 26-year-old Calgary man was found guilty of flying his drone near the airport and fined $500. That was the first charge of its kind in the city.

Keith Walker is the co-owner of Peak Aerials. He said flying drones is the easy part, the challenge comes from understanding all the regulations.

“It has everything to do with knowing all the regulations that a pilot needs to know,” Walker said. “I think there’s a lot of work to be done. I think people are still trying to figure out the technology, which changes by the hour, shall we say. But they are amazing tools and like any tool, that can be used safely or dangerously.”

Transport Canada has a list of rules for recreational drone users.  It’s expected Transport Canada will introduce new drone regulations next year.

“We are hoping that the introduction of the legislation that Transport Canada is trying to implement will hopefully make it a lot clearer for everybody,” Sgt. Foster said.

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The following are a list of do’s and don’t’s when using a drone, according to Transport Canada.


  • Fly your drone during daylight and in good weather (not in clouds or fog).
  • Keep your drone in sight, where you can see it with your own eyes – not only through an on-board camera, monitor or smartphone.
  • Make sure your drone is safe for flight before take-off. Ask yourself, for example, are the batteries fully charged? Is it too cold to fly?
  • Know if you need to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC).
  • Respect the privacy of others – avoid flying over private property or taking photos or videos without permission

Don’t fly:

  • Closer than nine km from any aerodrome (i.e. airport, heliport, helipad or seaplane base, etc.)
  • Higher than 90 metres (300 feet) above the ground
  • Closer than 150 metres (500 feet) from people, animals, buildings, structures, or vehicles
  • In populated areas or near large groups of people, including sporting events, concerts, festivals, and firework shows
  • Near moving vehicles, highways, bridges, busy streets, or anywhere you could endanger or distract drivers
  • Within restricted and controlled airspace, including near or over military bases, prisons, and forest fires
  • Anywhere you may interfere with first responders

Calgary search and rescue groups are worried about the possibility of mid-air crashes with drones.

“When we are searching from the air, we can be as low as 500 feet off the ground. So there is a significant chance for interaction between the search aircraft that we are operating and any drone operators that are in the area,” Orin Johnson, search coordinator with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA), said.

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“There is the potential there could be a mid-air collision at worst, and depending on where on the aircraft is hit,  that can be a significant problem,” Johnson said.

Walker predicts there will be more facilities in the future that will accommodate recreational drone users.

“You’re going to see a lot more facilities that will be outside the city or perhaps in gymnasiums where you can fly recreationally in a controlled environment. I would suggest that is probably going to be the future and it’s not going to be in your backyard; it’s going to be more flying in a controlled environment,” Johnson said.