CBC Radio Edmonton AM

Last week I was approached by CBC Edmonton AM, as they were looking for an interview regarding the rules and regulations for drone flight in and around the city. The interview took place yesterday morning at 6:10am, but don’t worry if you weren’t up at that hour, I’ve got you covered. Here is the audio of the interview, as well as a transcript for those that wish not to listen. Enjoy!

Drone Danger – Edmonton AM

March 21, 2016 Interview between Host Mark Connolly & Certified Drone Operator Chris Anderson

Mark:    Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles are getting more and more popular. While their original use was for military purposes, drones are now just being used by all kinds of people, just for fun. But not a lot of people who have them understand the strict regulations and possible fines they could be in for if they break those regulations. Chris Anderson is one of only a handful of certified drone operators in Edmonton. He joins us this morning. Good morning Chris.

Chris:     Morning

Mark:     So what are the regulations around the use of drones?

Chris:     The regulations they are very similar to the manned aircraft in that you have to follow, there’s very stringent guidelines as to where you can fly, time of day you can fly, altitudes, near people, away from people and roadways and things like that. They’re laid out on Transport Canada’s website with various guidelines that I can go over.

Mark:     So if you’re just flying it around for your own pleasure without the intention of taking pictures or anything like that you still have to follow these kind of rules?

Chris:     Yes, yes. There’s still rules you have to follow with that. So for example within the city here, almost the entire city if off limits. One of the rules that they have is that you can’t fly within 9km of any airport, helipad, or aerodrome. So being in the city here with all the hospital helipads that we have, if you were to draw 9km circles around all of those, almost the entire city is eliminated.

Mark:     So anybody who is currently flying their drone just above, even above their house is probably breaking the rules.

Chris:     Right

Mark:     So do you have to, therefore file a flight plan, or what do you do?

Chris:     It’s a little bit different. What you have to do is obtain something called a SFOC which is a Special Flight Operations Certificate. That’s obtainable through Transport Canada. And with that you have to be able to prove safety systems and various other systems that you’re going to be incorporating into your operation, to show them that you’re going to be flying safe and not going to cause a hazard to other people, property, livestock, basically anything you can cause havoc with, they want to make sure you can stay away from that.

Mark:     So then once you have that, every day you want to fly you don’t have to check with somebody?

Chris:     There’s different kinds of permits. There’s one offs, you can get depending on the operation you’re going to do. If it’s very specific, you can get a SFOC just for that operation. Or you can get a blanket SFOC depending on your track record with Transport Canada. If you’ve proven that you’re flying safe and have set up a nice track record with them, they’ll grant you, say, 3 months, 6 months, or a year period of the entire province or the prairie region for example, where you don’t have to file, or you don’t have to notify them every time. You still have to coordinate with Nav Canada who controls the airspace around the airports, helipads, everything like that, if you plan to fly within those areas.

Mark:     Within that region, yeah. So is that what you have?

Chris:     Yes, yes. We have a standing 1 year permit for the province.

Mark:     And what the reg-, what’s the theory behind these regulations? Just to, obviously you don’t want to interfere with air flight and that sort of thing right?

Chris:     Yeah, that’s a big thing. For example within the city here with the helipads, STARS is in and out consistently. The two busier helipads within would be the UofA and RA. If you’re flying at a couple hundred feet there, it’s almost impossible to see a 2ft x 2ft small little drone from an aircraft that’s flying at a hundred knots. So it’s debatable still, there’s tests where they’re… you know, which is worse? A bird or a drone, if one was to collide? Ultimately it is to ensure safety of the public and property on the ground as well as air craft up in the air.

Mark:     Right, I mean there might be a small chance that it would hurt it, but that chance, is still there.

Chris:     Absolutely.

Mark:     What about going out in the wilderness or a National Park or anywhere where you’re kind of in the wild?

Chris:     That’s a yes and a no. National parks are an absolute no. The National Park Act prohibits take-off and landing within a National Park. So obviously commercial airliners and other aircraft, they’ll fly over the parks, when they’re going between Alberta and BC, but the actual take-off and landing has to be approved by the Superintendent of the park. Without that, they’ll fine you for sure. I’ve spoken with the Wardens and they’re anywhere between $1,000 and $25,000 depending on what they deem was an issue.

Mark:     So that’s pretty serious, really.

Chris:     It is, yeah. And their concern is with interference with wildlife. Just they’re in their natural environment. I had, I saw an example, a perfect example of what they are trying to stop from happening out at Elk Island Park near Christmas. There was a gentleman out there flying his drone around and he was probably 15ft above a bison. And everything I’ve been there the bison don’t do anything really. They walk, eat, look around, walk a bit more… it’s not much.

Mark:     Not very aggressive really.

Chris:     It was like a bull. It was digging its feet in, spinning and jumping around and stuff. It was scary. So I went over and I told him, I said, “Bring that back.” He argued a bit saying, “Oh, I didn’t mean to do that.” I said, “It doesn’t matter what you meant to do. Look what’s happening right now.” So yeah, National Parks are a no. Other rural areas though, don’t fall under any kind of restricted air space. Yeah, that’s the best place to fly.

Mark:     And would you think a lot of recreational drone users don’t really know any of these things? The regulations?

Chris:     Uh yeah, for sure. If you go on YouTube for example and even just search Edmonton, Edmonton drone or something like that, you can find a variety of, the videos they look good, it’s interesting.

Mark:     They’re probably all breaking the rules.

Chris:     Yeah, quite a few of them are probably not, not doing what they should be.

Mark:     Well Chris it’s fascinating stuff. Thanks for coming in and talking about it. We appreciate it.

Chris:     You’re welcome.

Mark:     Chris Anderson is a certified drone operator here in Edmonton.

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