A Halifax privacy lawyer and recreational drone pilot says he’s disappointed, but not surprised, by strict new regulations announced for unmanned aerial vehicles on Wednesday.
David Fraser raises several key concerns with Transport Canada’s updated rules — chief among them the lack of distinction it makes between the level of risk posed by different drone operators, which may be “unduly burdensome” on recreational, small drone pilots.
The regulations, announced by Transport Minister Marc Garneau in Montreal, apply equally to all pilots whose drones weigh between 250 grams and 25 kilograms no matter their purpose, whether commercial or recreational.
“You can go and buy really good ones that are about 300 grams. Those are put in the same category as something that flies through the air and weighs as much as a microwave,” Fraser told Global News.
“So when you’re looking at the risk of it falling from the sky or the risk of a collision with another aircraft, that’s a pretty extreme range,” he continued, “and I think they should have had subcategories within that.”
The new rules are aimed at countering a growing trend of drone incursions into space reserved for aircraft, and violators could be subject to fines of up to $25,000 and prison. Canadians flying drones of a certain size will have to pass an online exam and get a pilot’s certificate under the new rules, which come into effect on June 1.
Operators will also be required to register their drones and mark them with the registration number. A minimum age limit of 14 for basic operations and 16 for advanced will be introduced.
That means children won’t be able to use drones over 250 grams without supervision from a drone pilot that has completed the necessary requirements. Such restrictions are another concern, he said — that users who pose a minimal safety risk will have to wade through the same bureaucracy as those who pose a higher risk.
“Let’s say someone has a very large piece of land in the country and they want to fly a drone around there,” he said. “That person presents no risk to anybody, really, but they’re going to be subject to the same rules as someone who wants to fly a 10-kg drone in an urban sort of environment. And I think the impact is disproportionate.”
Pilots will have to keep their drones below an above-ground-level altitude of 122 metres — or 400 feet — and stay away from air traffic.
— with files from The Canadian Press
This was article was update at 7:14 p.m. AST on Thurs. Jan. 10, 2018 to correct an error. An earlier version incorrectly stated that children would not be able to fly drones. In fact, children may fly drones under 250 grams alone, and may fly larger drones under the supervision of a qualified pilot. Global News regrets the error.
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