Recreational users operating unmanned aerial vehicles(UAVs) near airports should be subject to criminal penalties, NAV Canada president and CEO John Crichton said.
Both FAA and Transport Canada prohibit recreational UAV users from operating within 5 miles of a commercial airport, “yet people do,” Crichton told ATW during an interview at NAV Canada’s headquarters in Ottawa. “So why don’t we go out and catch a few people? I think you really need the jail time in there [as a legal penalty for operating UAVs near airports], at least for the judges to consider using it.”
Crichton said FAA and Transport Canada have issued appropriate regulatory restrictions prohibiting recreational UAVs from operating within 5 miles of an airport, but noted that the ability to prosecute a violator criminally is uncertain in both the US and Canada. “The problem is what seems to be missing now is enforcement,” he explained. “The regulators and the governments have to come down really hard on the people they catch violating the rules because it’s very, very dangerous … I think it’s going to take more [than fines]. Maybe a little jail time wouldn’t hurt.”
Crichton, the longtime head of Canada’s air navigation service provider, continued: “What would happen if someone took a rifle and started shooting randomly in an airport’s approach area? I think we’d put that person in the slammer. I don’t see it any differently.”
Recreational UAVs being flown near airports “is one of these problems that’s just going to get worse,” Crichton said.