BY CLAIRE THEOBALD, EDMONTON SUN
As enthusiastic hobbyists are taking drones for their first flights, many don’t know they could be breaking the law.
“As an amateur, you want to go and take gorgeous pictures of the river valley, the bridges or the Muttart Conservatory,” said Dennis Cox, a professional Unmanned Aerial Vehicle [UAV] pilot and president of Sky Pirates UAV. “You actually are breaking the law. It’s an illegal photo.”
As UAV or drone technologies get smaller, cheaper and more accessible, more hobby fliers are getting their hands on the multi-rotored remote control devices.
However, Cox – who says he started flying UAVs with the Royal Canadian Navy and has been flying them professionally for two years – warns that while they might be fun, there is a lot of responsibility involved in flying them safely and legally.
Transport Canada has a number of regulations for flying UAVs, including those under two kilograms.
These include having $100,000 in liability insurance, staying at least 30 metres away from people, animals, buildings and vehicles not in operation and informing Air Traffic Services if your UAV enters controlled airspace, such as near an airport or helicopter landing pad.
Cox says with these rules in place, it is virtually impossible for a hobbyist to fly their drone within city limits in Edmonton legally without applying for the proper exemptions from Transport Canada, a complex application that can take over a month to have approved.
The problem, says Cox, is that while those producing hobby-sized UAVs know there are restrictions, they are not including this information at the point of sale, meaning many enthusiastic and well-intentioned hobbyists can run afoul of the law without even knowing those laws exist.
“Anybody can walk in and walk out with a unit that has got potential to cause a lot of harm,” said Cox. He added, “these are high performance machines, so to mishandle these machines, there’s not only the potential of hurting people or damaging other buildings, but even yourself.”
Without proper consideration, Cox said UAVs can easily lose control, hitting people or crashing into buildings.
World Cup skier Marcel Hirscher narrowly escaped being hit by a falling drone during a race in Italy this week, and pop star Enrique Iglesias had his fingers sliced and his hand broken while trying to grab a drone flying over the stage during a performance in Mexico in May.
Cox said flying UAVs can be a lot of fun, and just wants to encourage those taking up flying them to do so responsibly.
That’s why he is hosting a free seminar, Basic Flight Safety and the Rules of the Sky, on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 1 p.m. at The Burg restaurant in Edmonton at 10190 104 St. from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The seminar is free to attend, but Cox asks those attending to register by visiting www.eventbright.ca and searching for “Basic Flight Safety and the Rules of the Sky.”