Canada Seeks to Tighten Rules for Recreational Drone Operators

College student Nick Howe flies his DJI Phantom drone

Transport Canada, the official transportation department within the Government of Canada, is currently drafting new aviation regulations that will require all drone operators who fly unmanned aircraft systems weighing more that 250 grams to obtain an operating license, according to a report by Ashley Burke, CBC News in Ottawa.

The more rigorous regulations -- expected to be introduced in 2017 -- will evaporate the distinction between commercial and hobbyist drone fliers in Canada. The new model is slated to be based on the weight of the aircraft, and the airspace in which it will be flown.

"The proposed floor for very small UAVs is intended to minimize the risks to persons, based on the speed and potential lethality," according to a briefing note sent to Transport Minister Marc Garneau and obtained by CBC. The note adds that even "very small" drones can travel quickly and impart so much energy upon impact that there is a 30 per cent "likelihood of lethality."

Transport Canada has seen a dramatic increase in both UAS purchases, and dangerous operation of drones, according to Aaron McCrorie, Transport Canada's Director General of Civil Aviation. In 2010, the department investigated one incident, compared to 82 potential infractions in 2016 (as of September 1).

"We need to regulate that to make sure that we don't have a disaster," said McCrorie. "The recreational users are going to have to meet more stringent safety requirements now."

This effectually means that all operators of a drone in Canada will require licensure the same way all driver of an automobile require licensure (excluding commercial, livery, etc. comparisons). It remains unclear as to how the proposed regulations will be applied toward tourist visitors who come to Canada with a personal drone. Regardless, not everyone is happy about the news.

"I think it's just getting too strict now," says Nick Howe, a college student and drone operator based in Ottawa. "It just means more money I'm going to have to spend," said Howe, who also started producing videos for real estate companies. "It's a lot more of a hassle than anything."

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will undoubtedly be closely watching the rollout and implementation of the new Transport Canada regulations. With the FAA recently revising its forecast to project the potential of "millions of drones" to fill America's skies in the not-to-distant future, the prospect of universal drone licensing could be lucrative for several reasons; including the prospect of generating additional revenue from drone operators to help offset the increased financial burden the agency faces in dealing with the exploding UAS industry.

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