Transport Canada’s Drone Regulations Make No Sense

Let me start this out that this isn’t a Saskatoon City Council issue nor is it a provincial issue.  My beef is with Transport Canada and their ham fisted rules around drones.

Okay, I am going to purchase a DJI Mavic Pro.  Here it is.

Yet the rules Transport Canada have in place are really, really vague but have these steep penalties.  Instead of rules, they have these weak guidelines.  Some seem more important than others.

  • Operate the aircraft safely.

That makes sense.

  • Always be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes. This means that you should not use an on-board camera, first person view device or other similar devices.

Okay, some people race their drones at low altitudes using VR gear.  Does that mean that it isn’t allowed?  Even at altitudes of under 25 feet?

  • Always give way to manned aircraft (e.g. hot air balloons, gliders, ultra-light aeroplanes including powered parachutes, aeroplanes and helicopters).  

Again, makes sense.

  • Fly only during daylight and in good weather (e.g. not in clouds or fog).

Okay with this rule.

  • Avoid restricted airspace (e.g. forest fire areas, prisons  or military airspace)

This also is common sense.  No one wants their DJI Phantom to be taken out by a surface to air missile. 

  • Remain at least 9 km (5 nautical miles) from any aerodromes and heliports.

This makes no sense to me.  First of all 9kms is almost all of Saskatoon including downtown where even if I am flying lower than the east riverbank, is it still disallowed?  It seems to be under these rules… these are basically banned anywhere on the westside of Saskatoon.

Now look at this.  You can do this over New York City which is in the middle of the U.S. Eastern Flight Corridor but I can’t do anything like this without permits from Transport Canada in Saskatoon.  It makes no sense.  Plus, the DJI drones have built in restrictions when you are close to an airport so you can’t fly more than a couple of feet high if you are too close.  Same with restricted airspace.

So this is safe to do in New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco but not in Saskatoon.

  • Maintain below a safe altitude (300 feet (90 metres)) and a safe horizontal distance (minimum 100 feet (30 metres)) from people, structures or buildings.

I agree with this and I am suggesting it be allowed to do what some idiots do and take them up to 15,000 feet but up to 500 hundred feet is not a lot of altitude and in rural areas is safe.  As for the buildings, am I allowed to fly over top of them?

  • Do not fly in populated areas or overfly assemblies of people (e.g. sporting events, concerts, etc). 

What is a populated area?  Is that all of Saskatoon?  What about flying along the river valley?   What about SMF Field or Mosaic Stadium when empty?  Can I hover adjacent to the event?

  • Do not fly where or when you could interfere with any first responders (fire department, police, etc) as they conduct their duties.

Makes sense.  We saw the mess that idiots created with wildfires and drones.

  • Respect the privacy of others.

Again, what does that mean?  As a photographer, I am allowed to take a photo of anything I can as long as I am on public property.  I know this is more complicated because of the ability of a drone to look over a fence but where is the line drawn.  Personally I think Transport Canada should have said, you can’t take identifiable footage of people in private places but if they are in a public area as well, they are fair game as there is no expectation of privacy if you are walking in public.

  • Do not operate with any dangerous goods or lasers on the aircraft.

Really, having powerful lasers on board my drone is why I want a drone in the first place.

Seriously, Transport Canada’s rules are vague and confuse everyone.  I have talked to police, RCMP, and Parks Canada staff in the last couple of weeks and I get the same muddled answers of I am not sure and use “common sense”.  That makes sense unless you are talking about the kinds of fines that Transport Canada is talking about.  For that I want definitive answers.  So far no luck.

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