Canadian Underwriter

Transport Canada launches drone safety initiatives, including online incident-reporting tool

December 21, 2016   by Canadian Underwriter

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Transport Canada announced on Wednesday that it has launched a number of initiatives aimed at drone safety, including a “new incident-reporting tool to keep Canadians safe from reckless drone use.”

Drone Hexacopter delivers a packageKate Young, Member of Parliament for London West and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Transport, on behalf of Minister Marc Garneau, outlined in a statement the “concrete steps that have been taken to improve safety and support innovation in one of Canada’s fastest growing industries: drones.”

The new online tool will help “keep Canadians safe from reckless drone use,” the statement said. “Every week, Transport Canada receives reports, emails and phone calls from concerned Canadians about drone safety incidents,” Transport Canada said in a backgrounder. “To simplify the reporting process, today a new online tool was launched that allows Canadians to report drone incidents from their mobile phones. The tool makes it easier for Canadians and helps the department gather valuable information that will assist inspectors with investigations.”

Besides details of the alleged drone safety incident, such as date, location, description of the drone and operator, the online form asks visitors such questions as:

  • Was the drone flying near an aircraft?
  • Was the drone flying at a high altitude?
  • Was the drone flying close to an airport/aerodrome (helipad, heliport, seaplane base, etc.)? and
  • Did the drone fly close to or over the following zones? (such as a populated area; home/private property; crowd (sporting event, concert, festival); forest fire; moving vehicles, highways, busy streets, bridges, etc.)

Related: Federal government announces investment in unmanned aircraft systems range in Alberta

Over the past year, Transport Canada has made progress on drones, also known as unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), the statement said. The department is currently focused on a number of key areas, including:

  • Improving regulations for drone operators – In spring 2017, Transport Canada will publish regulations in Canada Gazette, Part I, for small drones (25 kilograms or less) that are operated within visual line-of-sight. The department is taking a “safety first approach” to the regulations that facilitate opportunities for innovation, while addressing safety concerns, the backgrounder said. The proposed changes will introduce more flexible and clear rules for all drone operators. Canadians will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations before they come into force.
  • Simplifying rules for commercial operators with two new exemptions – Transport Canada will issue two new UAV exemptions for non-recreational operators that will replace the existing exemptions, which are due to expire on Dec. 21. These new exemptions will allow UAV operators flying for work or research to conduct lower-risk operations without having to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC). The new exemptions will allow operators to fly closer to built-up areas and smaller aerodromes as long as they comply with strict safety conditions and notify Transport Canada before flying. Detailed information regarding the new exemptions will be available on TC’s drone safety webpage when the exemptions come into effect on Dec. 22;
  • Supporting innovation for commercial operators at a new drone test site in Alberta – On Nov. 3, Garneau granted the farming village of Foremost approval to begin operations at their UAV test site. The site will support research and development and provide the industry with dedicated, restricted airspace where they can test UAVs beyond visual line of sight;
  • Partnering with retailers to provide safety information at the point-of-sale – Manufacturers, including DJI, will include a Transport Canada safety card with every drone they sell. Retailers, including Amazon Canada, Henry’s and Best Buy Canada, will provide a link to the department’s drone safety webpage on their respective websites; and
  • Launching a No Drone Zone public awareness campaign – In June, Garneau launched the No Drone Zone public awareness campaign that focused on partnering with airports and other organizations to educate Canadians about drone safety. Transport Canada also introduced “No Drone Zone” signs and has worked with 20 organizations to install over 100 of these signs in and around airports, the backgrounder said.

Stephen Patterson, chair of Fanshawe College’s Norton Wolf School of Aviation Technology, said in the statement that the college is offering Transport Canada-compliant training. “The growth and availability of drones and other unmanned aircraft have truly opened the skies,” he said. “Whether you’re flying for fun or work, it’s important to always put safety first.”

According to Transport Canada, anyone who operates a drone in a reckless and negligent manner, violates controlled or restricted airspace, or endangers the safety of manned aircraft could face fines of up to $25,000 and/or prison. If an operator does not follow the requirements of their SFOC, Transport Canada can issue fines of up to $3,000 for an individual and $15,000 for a business.

So far in 2016, the department had issued 4,298 SFOCs, compared to 2,480 SFOCs in 2015 – an increase of 73%.

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