Transport Canada to introduce new drone regulations

In response to the growing popularity of drones, Transport Canada is planning to introduce new rules governing their use.

After asking for input from the public last summer, the department says it intends to introduce new regulatory requirements, sometime this year, for drones that weigh 25 kilograms or less and are operated “within visual line of sight.

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The new rules will address licensing and training for drone operators, establish how the unmanned aircraft should be marked and registered, and create “flight rules,” according to Transport Canada’s notice of proposed amendments, posted online.

Current Transport Canada guidelines say that no drone can be flown within 9 km of forest fires, airports or built-up areas. Drones also cannot be flown higher than 90 metres, over military bases, prisons, crowds or in restricted airspace.

The existing regulations distinguish between recreational and non-recreational drone use. A special flight operation certificate is required for non-recreational drones that weigh more than 25 kilograms and are flown out of the operator’s line of sight.

Those who want to fly drones that weigh between 2.1 kg and 25 kg can do so without permission, as long as they meet certain exemption requirements.

Flying small recreational drones is a hobby for many North Americans and usually involves short-distance flights, said Doug Marshall, a North Dakota-based aviation consultant.

Commercial drones are equipped with cameras and typically used for research or surveillance purposes and to capture aerial shots. As they became more popular in the last couple of years, they’ve raised privacy concerns, Marhsall told CTV News Channel on Monday.

“The privacy concern is a huge concern, not just in Canada and the U.S. but all over the world,” he said, noting complaints about camera-equipped drones flying over private properties.

Transport Canada says it will continue to work with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure that drone operators respect Canada’s privacy laws. A 2013 report from the privacy commissioner said that privacy “checks and balances” will be necessary as more people buy and use drones.

Transport Canada says the unmanned aircraft industry has grown exponentially over the past few years. In 2012, the department issued 345 special flight operation certificates to drone users. By 2014, that number jumped to 1,672.

The department also cites safety issues among the reasons for new drone regulations. Since 2010, Transport Canada says it has investigated some 50 incidents involving unmanned aircraft across the country.

Still, Marshall said that Canada has been ahead of the curve when it comes to drone regulation in North America.

“They’ve actually put regulations and procedures for approving drone operations in place well before the U.S. has,” he said.


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