Over the holidays a story came out on a UAV operator in the Montreal area that was issued a $1000 fine for flying his UAV. The article itself is not long on details of what all had occurred and the events that lead to the fine however. As reported, Julien Gramigna, a photographer from Montreal who operates VuDuCiel, received the fine in late December from Transport Canada while using the UAV to take photos of a house for a real estate agent last summer.
“I’m definitely not paying this,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. I didn’t even get a warning.” – Julien Gramigna
It is unclear on the specifics of the incident that brought about the fine, but based on the statement of it being a real estate shoot, and the fact VuDuCiel is a commercial UAV aerial imaging provider, it seems fairly clear that this was in fact a commercial use and thus would fall under Transport Canada regulations.
The the full article can be found here:
Considering the fact that VuDuCiel is a commercial UAV operator, and from their website seem to have a number of existing clients, it is safe to assume they should have been aware of the regulations for commercial use prior to this incident. Additional media reports state Mr. Gramigna complained about the current lack of information on regulations. So there is no doubt more to this story that the media reports have mentioned in any detail.
This is only the second case of Transport Canada issuing a fine to our knowledge. The other case took place last year where an operator had been working without an SFOC and had multiple fines for multiple operations that were apparently reduced in an agreed settlement. In this case the unofficial story is that the operator had applied for SFOCs for each operation however he never received a response from Transport Canada, and proceeded with the operations without. This case as well took place in Quebec. (It should be noted that the details of this incident are 3rd hand and as such may differ from the actual facts.)
This adds to ongoing complaints that we have heard and directly experienced with the processing time for SFOC applications, which are far from the 20 days noted by Transport Canada, often taking weeks to months to be turned around. At present the processing time for the Atlantic Region is 6-8 weeks as told to us by the regional office in Moncton.
Further to the story itself have been the comments from various readers online which range from suggesting all out bans on drones to no need for regulations for “toys”. It is clear from some of the comments that many, including those directly involved in UAV businesses and full scale aviation, are not aware or clear of the full Transport Canada UAV regulations. Many assume that the new exemptions can be used for most activities if the UAV is under 2kg. As we previously reported, the exemptions are not a free for all and have very specific requirements that all must be met in order for the exemption to apply. Otherwise an SFOC is required for commercial use, the same as before the exemptions came into being. Some that we communicated with were surprised to learn that there were so many fine details over what was reported by the media when Transport Canada made the first press release on the exemptions and released the Infographic summary back in November.
The following comment in the Montreal article also gives us some concern:
“Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t hurt anyone with it,” he (Julien Gramigna) said.
Anyone involved with UAVs, be it commercial or recreational, knows that even the smallest aircraft have the potential to cause harm or damage. Shrugging it off is not the best approach to growing the industry in our view. Operators need to make safety a high priority, otherwise we may be faced with further regulation down the road if incidents start to occur from unsafe operation.
The main point that UAV operators need to keep in mind is that the onus is on the operator to fully review and understand the regulations and ensure they are operating legally. If you merely assume what is required based on summaries and reports by traditional media you could be in for a shock and potentially facing fines if Transport Canada is stepping up enforcement as the recent Montreal case suggests.
Right now Canadian regulations are in a state of flux and confusion exists at many levels. Hopefully things will be clarified as we move into 2015, but we expect a bumpy road over the next few months as the industry “takes-off” and regulators try and play catch-up.