Licence and registration, please. Ottawa unveils new drone rules

Operators will require advanced certification to fly drones within Vancouver and nearby areas

Drone operators will need certification by June 1 to fly the devices | Shutterstock

Drone operators with looser attitudes towards existing rules for the airborne devices soon face a stricter atmosphere.

Ottawa introduced new regulations for drones on Wednesday (January 9), requiring operators to acquire certificates and register their devices by June 1.

Paul Bennett, president of Coquitlam-based drone training and consulting service Aerobotika, said Transport Canada’s new rules significantly simplify previous regulations.

“For our customers, we’re very, very happy that they’re going to be able to do more and do it easier without as much paperwork and hassle,” he said.

New regulations fall under two main categories ­— basic and advanced — and apply to operators piloting drones between 250 grams and 25 kilograms that fly within the pilot’s visual-line-of-sight.

Pilots will be required to register and mark drones with a registration number, pass an online exam to get a pilot certificate, stay below an altitude of 122 metres above ground level and stay away from air traffic.

Pilots must also be a minimum of 14 years old for basic and 16 years old for advanced operations, unless supervised by someone else with proper certification.

So far, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has avoided disruptions caused by drones sightings such as the ones reported at London Gatwick airport last month and Heathrow Airport earlier this week.

Bennett noted that most of areas close to the City of Vancouver are controlled airspace, owing to the proximity to YVR, Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre and Boundary Bay Airport.

“In Vancouver if you’ve seen a person flying a drone recreationally, they were doing it illegally no matter what,” he said.

“A lot of people don’t understand that. It’s all of the way from the top of the blade of grass in your yard to about 3,000 feet or 2,200 feet, depending on where it is.”

Operators who wish to fly drones in Vancouver will need to attain the advanced permit.

Both permits will require operators to complete an online exam within 50 minutes.

Bennett said one potential loophole that exists, though, is that there is nothing stopping operators from enlisting someone else to take the test on their behalf.

“And in that 50 minutes you certainly can do some open-book research,” he said.

“But at the same time who’s to say that I am me? There’s no one checking ID.”