Local experts weigh in on new drone regulations

By Taylor Chartrand
January 10, 2019 - 11:02am

Medicine Hat, AB - The Federal Government has released new regulations for flying a drone in Canada.

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau made the announcement yesterday, after temporary regulations were put in place last year to limit the risk of drone collisions near airports.

Local drone-expert Sterling Cripps had a helping hand in formulating the new guidelines with Transport Canada and he gives us his take on things.

"This has been a work in progress for about 10 years and it finally came to fruition," explained Cripps. "What this does is raise the bar for drone operators. Small drones, between 250 grams and 25 kilograms, and it presents the rules that they're supposed to be flying under." 

Cripps said the biggest change comes with pilots now having to write one of two exams; basic and advanced.

"The exams themselves will be based on several things such as air-space awareness and knowledge, communications, aerodynamic communications and meteorology." 

Before the regulation changes, pilots were required to receive mandatory drone training. That has now been abolished.

"Even though the mandatory training is now gone, it is highly recommended that you take a course. Do the course and then challenge the exam. The exam will be approximately 50 questions, multiple choice with a pass mark of 80%, which is quite high."

Cripps said if you haven't taken a previous drone course, you'll be hard-pressed to pass either test.

In addition to the exam, Cripps said there were a couple other highlights to note.

"Pilots will have to register online with their contact information, type of drone, serial number and then you have to challenge the exam. Once you have provided all that information to Transport Canada, you'll get a permit on successful completion of the exam. A person will also need a practical assessment by a flight reviewer."

Cripps said as a commercial pilot, he's been awaiting these set regulations for quite some time.

"As a pilot, we're very sensitive to other aircraft in the air and certainly, if there's a drone up there, I'd like to be aware of that. You're considered an aircraft by Transport Canada because you share the same air-space with manned aviation and there's a responsibility that goes along with that."

Owner of Alberta Drones Anne Peters said she welcomes the new regulations.

"They all make sense to me," said Peters.  "It needs to be regulated. It's really important for the safety of all those involved in the drone industry. Whether that be recreational, consumer or commercial pilots, everybody wants to be in a safe environment and that's what it's all about."

Peters added she's had conversations with her clientele about the new rules. 

"They seemed to be pretty thrilled about how things have changed and been simplified, so they're pretty happy about that."

She's also had conversations with Cripps about the regulation changes and says having a local contact like that is incredible.

"Sterling and I have talked about the new rules. We both believe they're effective and I looking forward to collaborating with Sterling in the future."

Other key highlights of the new regulations included:

  • Registered owners of drones must be at least 14 years old and a citizen or permanent resident of Canada. 
  • There will be two levels of pilot certificates to operate a drone. Those with a basic certificate will have to be at least 14 years old and pass a test. However, the regulations also provide for someone under 14 to operate a drone if supervised by someone 14 or older who has a certificate.
  • Those with advanced operations certificates will get to fly closer to airports and controlled airspace. They will have to be at least 16 years old and pass an exam and a flight review.
  • If you want to fly a drone in conditions where it's not in visual line of sight at all times, you'll need a special certificate.
  • No one will be allowed to fly a drone when the weather conditions prevent seeing it at all times, or when frost, ice or snow are stuck to it. 
  • Drinking alcohol within 12 hours of being on a drone flight crew is prohibited.
  • Anyone wanting to fly a drone at night will need special lights.
  • With the exception of police, rescue and firefighting operations, nobody will be allowed to fly a drone over or within a security perimeter set up by officials in response to an emergency. 

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