New federal regulations for recreational drones are being welcomed by the organization in charge of Saskatoon’s airport.
A spokesperson for Skyxe, formerly the Saskatoon Airport Authority, said there have been two close calls involving drones and large commercial aircraft at the Saskatoon International Airport over just the past 12 months.
“Both of them were reported at around 150 feet,” Andrew Leeming, vice-president operational excellence with Skyxe, said.
“A lot of effort goes into protecting aircraft on approach and take-off from birds strikes, you would have a similar hazard,” Leeming added. “You could have damage to the aircraft and that could then jeopardize a safe approach or a safe take-off.”
Transport Canada dealt with both cases.
Leeming said the new regulations bring clarity to what drone users have permission to do and when and where they are able to do it.
One of the changes prohibits a recreational user from flying a drone within nine kilometres of an airport. That’s an area that covers most of Saskatoon, leaving many to wonder, where recreational users will be able to fly their drones.
“I think if you live in Willowgrove or some other areas, you might be outside of that, but I think it’s just important for the public to be aware of where they are intending to operate their drone and to operate safely,” Leeming said.
“If you go back a number of years, people who use to have (remote-controlled) models, they would go to an area designated for the use and purpose of flying. I don’t think it should be any different in this case with drone use,” he added.
Transport Canada said their enforcement inspectors and law enforcement officers will exercise discretion in taking enforcement actions.
In some cases, Transport Canada or the officer on scene will speak to the operator and educate them on the rules.
However, should a recreational drone operator be found to be operating close to an airport, in a flight path, or over a group of bystanders, more serious enforcement actions and fines will be considered.
Those fines could be as high as $3000.
Reaction from drone manufacturer in Saskatoon
Saskatoon’s Daraganfly Innovations Inc. has been manufacturing drones since 1998. The company is currently the longest running manufacturer of multi-rotor drones in the world.
Production manager Cory Baker said he found about the new regulations Thursday when he opened his email.
He said changes to the rules are common.
“The industry relatively new and progressing very rapidly, the technology is evolving very quickly. So safety regulations are almost struggling to keep up.”
In order to stay up to date, he recommends checking in with Transport Canada.
“For recreational use they have a really clear sheet on how high you can fly, how close to buildings, how close to airports,” Baker said.
He said it can be upsetting to hear about situations where a recreational drone enthusiast breaks the rules. as it can reflect poorly on the entire industry.