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Drone Regulations

December 24, 2016
Drone

Drones have become a more popular sight buzzing around campgrounds.  They started as a great hobby, they became important tools for people to survey large areas of land or water cheaply and easily and most noticeably they gained bad press.  There has been a lot of bad press too, from a drone crash in the sulfur pools at Yellowstone, a drone causing an aborted water bomb during the Fort McMurray wild fire, many disruptions to plane landings and takeoffs as well as disruptions to emergency services helicopters.  Unfortunately bad decisions by a few drone users leads to regulation for all.  In fact just yesterday I sat thru the window of a building watching a local news reporter being shown how to pilot a DJI Phanton3 as part of a news piece on new drone regulations just announced that day by a politician visiting my town.  However one of the existing rules is to not fly within 9km of an airport or helipad.  My town has an airport on the east side, a trauma center helipad in the north and a trauma center helipad in the south.  This makes almost the entire city a no fly zone, only a very small section in the west is safe to fly based on the 9km rule.  The area where the reporter was piloting the drone was well within the 9km no fly zone.  Neither the reporter or the drown owner had filed a flight plan and acknowledged knowing of the 9km rule, so their news story on new federal drone regulations was actually breaking federal drone regulations.

Now as we are coming into 2017, the USA and Canada have implemented regulations to ensure drone users follow some simple guidelines.

American regulation highlights:

You can find out more at FAA

  • pilots of drones over 250g must register the devices with the FAA
  • drones under 250g do not need to register
  • visual line of sight must be maintained (no VR goggle navigation)
  • drone must be close enough to be able to be seen unaided
  • drones can’t be flown over people (except the pilot), under a roof, or inside a vehicle
  • drones must be operated during daylight hours
  • pilot must yield right of way to other aircraft
  • max speed is 100mph
  • max altitude of 400ft
  • no operation from a moving vehicle
  • regular airspace restrictions apply to drones (ie around military bases and prisons)

Starting in 2017 US Drone pilots will be required to take a test to be able to fly.

Canadian regulation highlights:

More information can be found at Transport Canada 

  • don’t fly in clouds or fog
  • don’t fly within 9 km from airport, heliport or seaplane base
  • don’t fly higher than 90m
  • don’t fly closer than 150m from people, animals, buildings or vehicles
  • don’t fly near large groups (no sporting events or concerts)
  • don’t fly near moving vehicles, highways or bridges
  • don’t fly in restricted airspace
  • don’t fly near first responders
  • if the drone is over 35kg or is being used for commercial purposes, certification is required

When looking at both the American and Canadian regulations along with individual restrictions at National, State and Provincial parks, along with regulations at many private parks, it has become very difficult to find a safe place to fly them now.  The Canadian rule of 9km from any airport, heliport or seaplane base makes it so there are severe limitations around most any city and both countries rules on flying above people, buildings or vehicles makes most any campground a no fly zone as well.

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