Flying an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)
As enthusiastic hobbyists are taking drones for their first flights, many don’t know they could be breaking the law.
As an amateur, you want to go and take gorgeous pictures of the river valley, the bridges or the Muttart Conservatory, said Dennis Cox, a professional Unmanned Aerial Vehicle [UAV] pilot and president of Sky Pirates UAV. You actually are breaking the law. It’s an illegal photo.
As UAV or drone technologies get smaller, cheaper and more accessible, more hobby fliers are getting their hands on the multi-rotored remote control devices.
However, Cox who says he started flying UAVs with the Royal Canadian Navy and has been flying them professionally for two years warns that while they might be fun, there is a lot of responsibility involved in flying them safely and legally.
Transport Canada has a number of regulations for flying UAVs, including those under two kilograms.
These include having $100,000 in liability insurance, staying at least 30 metres away from people, animals, buildings and vehicles not in operation and informing Air Traffic Services if your UAV enters controlled airspace, such as near an airport or helicopter landing pad.
Cox says with these rules in place, it is virtually impossible for a hobbyist to fly their drone within city limits in Edmonton legally without applying for the proper exemptions from Transport Canada, a complex application that can take over a month to have approved.
The problem, says Cox, is that while those producing hobby-sized UAVs know there are restrictions, they are not including this information at the point of sale, meaning many enthusiastic and well-intentioned hobbyists can run afoul of the law without even knowing those laws exist.
Anybody can walk in and walk out with a unit that has got potential to cause a lot of harm, said Cox. He added, these are high performance machines, so to mishandle these machines, there’s not only the potential of hurting people or damaging other buildings, but even yourself.
Without proper consideration, Cox said UAVs can easily lose control, hitting people or crashing into buildings.
World Cup skier Marcel Hirscher narrowly escaped being hit by a falling drone during a race in Italy this week, and pop star Enrique Iglesias had his fingers sliced and his hand broken while trying to grab a drone flying over the stage during a performance in Mexico in May.
Cox said flying UAVs can be a lot of fun, and just wants to encourage those taking up flying them to do so responsibly.
That’s why he is hosting a free seminar, Basic Flight Safety and the Rules of the Sky, on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 1 p.m. at The Burg restaurant in Edmonton at 10190 104 St. from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The seminar is free to attend, but Cox asks those attending to register by visiting http://www.eventbright.ca and searching for Basic Flight Safety and the Rules of the Sky.
Under Transport Canada regulations, an operator of a UAV under two kilograms must :
- Be 18 years old, or at least 16 to conduct research under academic supervision.
- Have at least $100,000 liability insurance.
- Stay at least 30 metres away from people, animals, structures and vehicles not in operation.
- Not be tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Inspect the UAV and flight site before take off to ensure it is safe.
- Inform Air Traffic Services if your UAV enters controlled airspace.
- Give right-of-way to manned aircraft.
- Only fly during the daylight and in good weather conditions.
- Keep your aircraft in direct line of sight, always able to see it with your own eyes.
- Verify that radio frequencies or transmissions won’t interfere with UAV controls.
- Have an emergency plan prepared before take off.
- Carry proof of insurance, contact information and a copy of aircraft system limitations.
- Follow the manufacturers operating and emergency procedures, including those for when the UAV loses contact with the remote control.
- Operate only one UAV at a time with one remote.
- Immediately stop operations if you can no longer meet these requirements or if the safety of any person, property or other aircraft is at risk.
- Respect any other laws imposed by all levels of government.
Five things those flying UAVs must never do without special permission include (source: Transport Canada) :
- Flying closer than nine kilometres from forest fires, airports, heliports, aerodromes or built-up areas.
- Flying over military bases, prisons or in controlled or restricted airspace.
- Flying over crowds or higher than 90 metres.
- Participate in special aviation events, air shows or system demonstrations.
- Carry dangerous goods or lasers.