RCMP cautions about drone safety and rules after airport incident

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RCMP cautions about drone safety and rules after airport incident

The RCMP is using a recent drone incident at Charlottetown Airport as an opportunity to raise awareness and educate operators about the rules and regulations for the devices.

On Aug. 10 just before 2 p.m., RCMP received a report from the Charlottetown Airport Authority that a pilot had seen a drone on his approach.

Staff-Sgt. Kevin Baillie said the RCMP investigated and were unable to locate the device's operator, but are trying to make sure people who own or are planning to purchase drones know their limitations.

"The rule is basically in place to ensure the safety of those on aircraft approaching or leaving the airport," he said.

"Even a drone maybe weighing two or three pounds that if it hits a critical portion of the aircraft such as a windscreen or gets sucked into an engine could bring down an aircraft."

There are different rules for recreational and commercial users, and size also affects how a device is treated under the law.

Drones under 250 grams, which are generally not equipped with cameras, are not regulated by Transport Canada.

1.8 kilograms

If it weighs between 250 grams and one kilogram, the drone cannot be flown within 5.5 kilometres of an airport, the operator needs to maintain a visual line of sight or ensure it stays within 500 metres, and it cannot come within 30 metres lateral distance of someone that isn't aware of or a participant in the flight.

Drones between one kilogram and 35 kilograms must follow the same rules as those between 250 grams and one kilogram but they cannot be flown within 75 metres of people or buildings. 

Baillie said the most commonly used drones weigh about 1.8 kilograms.

Baillie said the use of drones was covered by Transport Canada guidelines until March 2017 when laws were put into place, and those laws were updated again in June.

"Everybody's kind of scrambling. The technology with regards to these drones has advanced so much in the last three to four years," Baillie said.

Fines for misuse can be as high as $3,000, and the criminal code could come into play in some situations.

"If someone is using the drone to look over their neighbour's fence or spy into windows ... if someone flies a drone recklessly that results in serious injury or death they certainly could be looking at criminal charges," Baillie said.

He also expects more changes and additions to the current regulatory system including a possible licensing system.

'Technology is amazing'

"It's anticipated that at some time in the near future the drone laws are going to be further enhanced and one of the things being considered is a knowledge based test and licensing of operators of drones," he said.

"I think this would go a long way to ensuring that people do fly in a safe and lawful manner."

Baillie said the RCMP have four drones they use to get aerial views of collision scenes and for emergency plans. 

He and his wife are also drone enthusiasts and he understands the draw of flying one.

"The technology is amazing, I'm amazed by it every time I fly," Baillie said.

"It's a reason to kind of, get out of the house and go out in the wilderness somewhere and take some shots."  

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