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Saskatoon drone bylaw criticized by national pilot association: ‘It creates issues’

Saskatoon drone law criticized by national association
WATCH: Saskatoon city council’s new bylaw banning drones is being criticized by a national association.

A national drone pilot association sent the City of Saskatoon a letter that says that a new bylaw governing drone use in the municipality “imposes unreasonable expectations on drone users.”

“It creates issues in terms of confusing operators for what is actually required to be able to operate within the city,” said Kate Klassen, a director of Unmanned Systems Canada.

The bylaw, passed at Monday’s city council meeting, states that “[n]o person shall fly a remotely piloted aircraft in, on or above property owned by the city, or leased by the city, or under the jurisdiction and control of the city, except as permitted by the city.”

It updates a previous bylaw but now stipulates an individual flying a drone could now pay up to $2,000 in fines. A corporation could now pay up to $5,000 in fines.

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Klassen, a licensed drone operator and certified pilot who lives in Vancouver, said the formulation of the bylaw seeks to govern the use of drones in the air, which is purely a federal matter.

Klassen said the city has the right to restrict access for things like launching and landing a drone, but the use of airspace above property, and permission to use the airspace, “is beyond what the city is able to have control over.”

The use of Canadian airspace — in effect, anything moving above the ground — falls under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada, a federal agency, which has delegated navigation to a private company called Nav Canada.

Klassen said the bylaw could be easily disputed by anyone fined by the City for using a drone, because federal law takes precedence over municipal law.

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Ward 5 Coun. Randy Donauer said drone use is a safety matter.

“Our streets, our roads, our sidewalks [and] our parks,” said Donauer, “we’re not going to allow drones flying in them.”
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He said that city solicitor Cindy Yelland did not flag the bylaw, which she would have if it was outside the legal purview of City Hall to legislate.

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Cory Baker, production manager at the Saskatoon-based drone production company Draganfly Inc., said pilots in the city likely wouldn’t notice a difference with the bylaw.

Federal regulations do not allow basic drone operations, as defined by Transport Canada, in restricted airspace. Nowhere in Saskatoon is far enough away from Diefenbaker Airport to be outside of the restricted airspace.

As a result, only advanced operators, who have registered their drones and who seek permission from Nav Canada, among other conditions, would be flying in city limits.

But Baker said that kind of work would be commercial and likely involve the City anyway.

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“Recreational users really shouldn’t be flying in the city,” he said. “It’s just not a good environment to be in. It’s not conducive to learn to fly in.

“It’s not as fun.”

Klassen said she is waiting for a response from the city administration and hopes to work with the city, as she did with Vancouver when they tried to pass a similar bylaw.

“It’s just a matter of getting in touch with the right people and making the changes… that will also contribute to the growth of the drone industry.”

The bylaw is already in effect.

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