Transport Canada Starts Regulating Recreational Drones

 - March 17, 2017, 3:11 PM
Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau announces new order at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. (Photo: Transport Canada)

Claiming a safety imperative to protect Canadians from the “reckless” operation of hobbyist drones, Transport Canada on March 16 announced an interim rule that places restrictions on their use. Failure to comply with the restrictions carries the risk of a fine of up to C$3000, the authority said.

Transport Canada said the number of rogue-drone incidents has more than tripled since 2014—from 41 that year to 148 in 2016—prompting it to issue the placeholder rule, which remains effective for one year until permanent regulations are developed. Representatives of the Canadian Mounted Police and the Toronto Police accompanied Transport Minister Marc Garneau in making the announcement at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

“I take very seriously the increased risk to aviation safety and to people on the ground caused by drones,” Garneau stated. “That is why I am proceeding with this measure, which takes effect immediately, to enhance the safety of aviation and the public while we work to bring into force permanent regulations.”

The Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft applies to model aircraft and recreational drones weighing from 250 grams (0.55 pounds) to 35 kg (77.2 pounds). The order requires that operators mark their drones with their contact information and refrain from flying higher than 90 meters (295 feet), at night, within 75 meters (246 feet) of buildings, vehicles or people and within 9 km (5.6 miles) of the center of any airport, heliport or seaplane base. The order does not apply to people who fly drones for commercial or research purposes, which requires a special flight operations certificate from Transport Canada.

Hobbyists in the U.S. must register online to fly one or more drones and mark each machine with their registration number—requirements of a national drone registry the Federal Aviation Administration established in December 2015. The FAA also provides safety guidelines for hobbyists, but is limited by Congress from further regulating the recreational use of drones.

Reacting to the Transport Canada announcement, the Drone Manufacturers Alliance (DMA), an industry grouping of drone software and hardware companies 3DR, DJI, GoPro and Parrot, said the interim order will have a “negligible” impact on safety while stifling innovation. It noted that world aviation authorities to date “have never recorded a single confirmed collision” between a civilian drone and a traditional aircraft.

“These sudden regulations, imposed without input from Canada’s tens of thousands of responsible drone pilots, will hurt innovation and education without a corresponding improvement in safety,” said Kara Calvert, DMA director. “The overwhelming majority of Canadian drone pilots operate safely and responsibly, and they are the ones who will be hurt by far-reaching restrictions, not the tiny number of irresponsible operators who have already violated existing drone safety rules.”