Transport Canada Unveils New Tool to Report Illegal Drone Use

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Tis the season to be finding a nifty new drone under your Christmas tree, and just in time, the federal government has announced a new set of initiatives on drone usage. Transport Canada’s plans include a No Drone Zone public awareness campaign about restrictions on where to fly your gadget as well as an online tool for citizens to report unsafe drone usage.

The new moves aim at supporting the commercial use of drones while at the same time “keeping Canadians safe from reckless drone use.” “In the past few years, the use of drones in Canada has increased tremendously and it’s a good time to be working with this industry,” says Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, in a statement. “Transport Canada is taking a number of steps to improve safety and innovation in this sector, including engaging retailers so new drone users are aware of the rules from the start; introducing an efficient tool for Canadians to report safety issues; and helping drone users test new technology.”

Flying a drone (otherwise known as an unmanned air vehicle or UAV) currently falls under the regulations for Model Aircraft and UAVs, which requires that operators should not fly their drones higher than 90 metres above the ground, closer than nine kilometres from airports or closer than 150 metres from people, animals, buildings or vehicles, nor near highways, bridges or busy streets. Transport Canada also plans to update in the coming months regulations on flight rules, permits and minimum age limits for drone flying, something that the ministry says will help develop the rapidly growing field while avoiding potentially dangerous mishaps. “We need to regulate to make sure that we don’t have a disaster,” said Aaron McCrorie, Transport Canada’s director general of civil aviation, in an interview with CBC News. “The recreational users are going to have to meet more stringent safety requirements now.”

Currently, while any use of a drone for commercial purposes must be certified, the recreational use of drones weighing less than 35 kg (77 lbs) does not require permission from Transport Canada.

The report-a-drone website for unsafe drone use is meant to give citizens a one-stop portal for responding to safety concerns about drone usage but citizens can also call their local police if they suspect the illegal use of a drone. Recently, an Edmonton man was charged for operating a drone downtown near Rogers Place (which is close to a helipad), reportedly the first time the EPS have laid such a charge.

During the last few years, drones have been increasingly in use for video and photography services, taking aerial pics for mappers and realtors, for example, but the field is about to literally take off as businesses begin to develop the drone’s delivery capabilities. In agriculture, drones have potential to deliver fertilizers, pesticides and water to crops, and in package delivery, drones are already being put to work by global retailer, Amazon. The company just completed its first test delivery by its Prime Air super-fast drone service in Cambridge, U.K., where a customer received a package containing an Amazon Fire TV box along with a packet of popcorn a mere 13 minutes after placing his order.