Jon Woodward, CTV News, Reporter
Canada’s federal transportation watchdog says it’s looking into a local drone operator whose eye-catching videos may have been taken from the flight paths of aircraft taking off and landing in Vancouver harbour.
Transport Canada says it may crack down on 604 Aerial Drone Photography as part of its push to halt the rise of close calls between unmanned drones and manned aircraft that could put people at risk.
“Transport Canada is looking into this operator’s activity,” said spokesperson Natasha Gauthier. “Should an issue of non-compliance with the regulations be found, the department will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action.”
Videos on the drone operator’s Instagram page show bird’s-eye views of the Lions Gate Bridge, B.C. Place, and a variety of other Vancouver locations. The Instagram page returned a request for comment with a message saying “I’m not the only one.”
According to Transport Canada data, a drone had a close call with an aircraft in B.C. at least 11 times in 2014. In 2015, that number had nearly doubled to 21.
Of those, five were in Victoria Harbour, seven in Victoria International Airport, six in Vancouver Harbour, and six at Vancouver International Airport, as well as a handful of others near smaller airports in the region. A drone also interfered with firefighting efforts in Oliver, B.C. this summer.
Drone operators cannot fly within nine kilometres of an airport, said Discovery Channel’s aviation correspondent, Mark Miller. That includes most of Richmond and Vancouver and a large area of Burrard Inlet.
“It’s a very very busy airport and they don’t think it’s an airport but it is,” he said.
Something as small as a bird can do serious damage to a plane, and in a crash between a drone and a plane it’s possible that people could get hurt or killed, Miller added.
“This is kind of the equivalent of unicyclists riding on the freeway. You wouldn’t do that. It’s dumb. They’re not thinking straight.”
Drones Plus on 4th Avenue says it asks its customers to sign a waiver saying they’ll obey the rules. The penalty is as much as a $25,000 fine.
“It’s true that these pictures and videos are beautiful. They’re amazing. We have to use our common sense and if it’s going to represent a danger you shouldn’t be doing that,” manager Ronald Meza said.
Tougher enforcement may be in the cards as Transport Canada says there will be an announcement related to this issue next week.