A commercial Comox Valley drone operator says he is happy with the new federal drone regulations announced Wednesday and hopes the rules will help educate the public about drone use.
Rick Ward, who operates RicksKopter.com in Royston has been flying commercially for four years, says the new rules announced by the federal government will help those who are serious about drone use.
“Right now, people have been getting drones for Christmas or they pick one up because they want to fly and get some great visuals. The new regulations make people think more; if they’re serious (about operating a drone), they will take their time and take the course.”
Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the new rules which include an online exam and the need to obtain a pilot’s certificate to operate a drone whether a person uses it for work, fun or research.
The new rules come into effect June 1.
Operators will need to register their drones and mark them with a registration number. He also introduced minimum operational age limits – 14 years of age for basic operations and 16 for advanced.
Pilots will also have to keep their aircraft below 122 metres above ground level and stay away from air traffic.
If pilots do not follow the drone rules – which apply to drones weighing between 250 grams and 25 kilograms – violators could be subject to fines of up to $25,000 and face prison time.
Ward says currently drones are easy to purchase and many people fly them without much experience. He adds there are some models which have software built into the system which does place regulations on where the drone can fly.
He has completed ground school and has his pilot licence, but as the majority of the Comox Valley is a no-fly zone, he has to get special permission to fly.
Drones are regulated by Transport Canada which has documented an increase in the number of incidents causing a risk to aviation safety in recent years.
Currently, regulations for drones that weigh more than 250 grams and up to 35 kilograms include that they must be flown to a maximum of 90 metres above the ground, only during the day, not in clouds, within 500m of the operator and at least 5.5 km from aerodromes (any airport, seaplane base or areas where aircraft take off and land).
Due to Smit Field off Forbidden Plateau Road, the Courtenay Airpark and the Comox Airport, recreational drones are forbidden to be flown anywhere between Union Bay and Saratoga Beach, or anywhere east of Comox Lake.
For those who operate drones for survey, agricultural or police work and inspections, academic research or aerial photography for real estate, a special flight operations certificate can be obtained through Transport Canada.
Currently, if a drone is flown in a restricted area without permission, users can be fined up to $3,000.