Radio controlled aircraft | Operators of larger drones will still have to carry certification
Changes to Canada’s unmanned aerial vehicle regulations seem less strict, but they still have a long way to go to catch up to the technology, says a UAV manufacturer.
“Because of the laws, it makes it almost impossible to do anything without so many restrictions,” Ben Parry told Agritrend’s 2014 Farm Forum Event in Saskatoon last week.
UAVs, also known as drones, have a long list of applications, such as conducting road surveys for the construction industry, checking lines in the oil and gas sector and selling farms and acreages.
“These technologies are advancing so fast and the government is so far behind. It’s frustrating,” Parry said.
One of the biggest problems with the old regulations was that they required a special flight certificate. Parry said it was difficult to meet the requirements because “there really wasn’t a template or much knowledge.”
“You would have to go to someone like myself who’s researched it or someone who understands what Transport Canada exactly needs to get passed.”
Scott Comfort knows all about the difficulties of applying for a special flight certificate. He said applicants would fill out the two-page form and then wait.
“It said on the website you will hear back about the certificate in 20 days,” he said.
“When you actually put in the application, it was going to be two to three months before you received it.”
Comfort, who works as an agricultural and residential realtor for Remax, said drones would have been useless if he had to wait that long for a certificate so he could show the farms and acreages he sells.
Comfort uses blanket certificates so he can fly his drone over as many properties as he wants without having to reapply every time.
The new regulations include exemptions from requiring a certificate.
“It allows people to get in the air quicker if they have small units,” said Parry.
“If you can go under 2.1 kilograms, you pretty much need no permission, so long as you fly safely.”
Parry said manufacturers can look at the regulations and determine how big the drones need to be, especially if the user doesn’t want to apply for a certificate.
“It sounds like they’ll be pretty flexible on these smaller drones, like mine,” said Comfort.
The basic rules listed on Transportation Canada’s website must be followed with or without a certificate.
They include flying only during the day with good weather, making sure the aircraft is safe before takeoff and knowing when a special certificate is required.
Parry said the new regulations seem easier for consumers to follow, but there are potential problems.
For example, flyers would no longer be able to fly their drones above people if they’re flying at less than 400 feet.
“Before, at 400 feet, if you were up that high it wasn’t a big deal as long as those people were aware of what’s going on.”
He said this would affect some companies.
As well, problems still exist with the larger drones, which can be necessary for jobs such as conducting a vegetation index survey or tracking cattle.
Farmers who want to operate these kinds of drones will still have to apply for a special certificate.
He said average users want a “turn-key, off-the-shelf solution.” They don’t necessarily know all the facts that Transport Canada expects them to know, including an understanding of aviation laws, air space and aviation safety.
Part of the problem in the past was that UAV owners were being tested on the same material that a pilot would need to know. UAV Owners, of course, aren’t pilots.
“But because of the laws, they wanted it that way. Now, they’re trying to refine it.”
Parry said the current laws aren’t permanent. Instead, they are only in effect until 2016.
“They’re doing a test bench to see how this works out. From that point they will start changing things based on what happened.”
For more information on drone regulations and the requirements for a certificate, visit this story on producer.com for links to federal regulations.