Today Transport Canada and Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, kicked off a new campaign to address the growing concern over drones and aviation safety. While pushing drone safety forward is a positive, this particular event framed the entire UAV industry in a negative light and was little more than fear mongering on the potential for a major accident despite there not being any cases to date.
Mark Laroche, President and CEO, Ottawa International Airport Authority, went so far as to reference the recent incident in the UK of an apparent drone strike, that was unconfirmed and reported in many cases as being a plastic bag.
Daniel-Robert Gooch President, Canadian Airports Council used the term “growing threat” in relation to UAVs:
“We thank the government for recognizing the rapidly growing threat that UAVs pose to commercial aircraft near airports or in restricted airspace. Today’s announcement represents a positive step towards keeping Canada’s airspace safe and moving towards regulations to address this issue.”
While COPA had a voice for private pilots, in addition to Ottawa Police, and the Canadian Airports Council, the UAV industry and recreational users were not part of the press conference nor offered a time to give their take from safe and responsible drone users.
The main focus of the announcement was the introduction of “No Drone Zone” signage that will be put up at airports and available for event organizers and other areas that drones are not wanted. Already the media is running with statements as fact such as “Currently, drones are not allowed to fly within nine kilometres of airports” when no regulation exists for such restrictions. As we wrote about before, there is one law CAR 602.45 that regulates recreational model aircraft to not interfere with manned aviation, and commercial operators are allowed to fly in a variety of airspace with the proper SFOC and coordination.
We as an industry need a voice or we may well be regulated out of existence. Misleading and fear mongering information such as that presented today makes our work harder when public and media question when and where we fly based on these new statements and signs.
While Canada promotes itself as a progressive leading UAV technology country it is clear that is not the case on all levels, and like many industries may end up with only the big players left in the game when the regulatory dust settles. Today’s announcement only adds to that fear.