With the latest proposed UAV regulations announced by Transport Canada in the new NPA earlier this week, it has us thinking once again about a major underlying issues we face – the lack of enforcement and the associated people that choose to ignore the those regulations as a result.
All the regulations and best practices in the world, no matter how well defined they may be, are of value if there is no enforcement or at least perceived enforcement to back them up and give them teeth. Without this some will simply choose to gamble and operate outside the lines as the fear of a being caught is so low.
This not only impacts safety due to operations that are outside approved limits with people operating in risky areas, over people, and so on, but it also puts the entire industry at risk. One major “incident” and the powers that be at various levels from municipal to federal could take a quick knee jerk reaction and lock down the entire use of UAVs for all.
While an unfortunate way to think, what may be required is making a public example of an offender and getting it into the national press so it becomes known to the masses. Not until some see enforcement does in fact exist will they take the regulations seriously.
To date Transport Canada has done some education around the use of drones (although some such as the Exemptions have lead to more confusion than good) but for the most part they seem to go ignored because they are not in the mainstream to get the attention of everyone.
Just like roadside checks for drunk driving and seat belts still are needed in this day and age after decades of education, so to will the regulations around drones need to be put front and center. Fear of penalty motivates more than doing what is right.
As it stands now those operators that do work within the regulations are left at a disadvantage over those that openly in many cases ignore them. These people skirting the laws can fly when and where they want with no real worries. They can offer clients services that legal operators cannot, which causes confusion in the industry, and as well undercut costs with the ability to take short cuts and eliminate cost for items such as insurance and proper safety gear and training. It makes for an unlevel and unsafe playing field.
As with any law they are only as good as the impact they have for those to respect and follow them, and to make that point clear there has to be ongoing enforcement. Hopefully as part of the new regulations being put forward by Transport Canada that there will also be a commitment to providing enforcement officers with the means to do their job effectively, for the safety and good of the public and the industry.