With the release of the new Canadian drone regulations on Jan 9 2019 came the requirement for all users to pass either a Basic or Advanced online exam.
The supposed purpose of the exams were to ensure user knowledge, especially when it comes to safe use of drones, so as to ensure there are no ongoing issues near airports or the public that could result in accidents.
However this is where things go off the rails. Instead of exams that focus on the safe use of the aircraft, focusing on the regulations around when and where you can fly, the exam goes off on tangents at times, pulling endless aviation jargon and technical details into the mix.
While we cannot go into the specifics on questions, as that would violate the regulations, case in point is a question around the definition of a “stabilator“. Given that the vast majority of consumer drones are quadcopters, such as those commonly sold by DJI, which do not have traditional fixed wing control surfaces, especially less common ones as a stabilator, we question the purpose and logic of questions like this even being in the mix.
Others dig into the details of laminar flow and reading VNC charts. Perhaps the Minister is hoping to develop the next generation of astronauts…
Many of the questions seem to be pulled directly from an existing pool for full scale manned aviation, not ones tailored to drones or the consumer market.
When you ask obtuse obscure irrelevant questions you lose the opportunity to educate and merely make clear to the user the pointlessness of the exam itself. Instead of trying to learn in the process, users hitting these type of questions become frustrated and merely cheat their way through to get it over with, and see it is little more than a hurdle of red tape.
It would be like asking to explain how a limited-slip differential works during a driving test. I suspect most would fail.
In a very limited test of 30 questions you have a small opportunity to try and stress the critical elements, which presumably are around safe use, so the focus of the exam should be towards those elements, once that every user needs to know and understand, not 1% edge cases or interesting aeronautical tidbits & definitions.
We have seen many causes already of people simply Googling the answers and in some cases asking for help in real time on social media for the answers. A recent case on Facebook had one person posting screenshots of the test as he went asking others to give the answers. After failing the test 3 previous times he was finally able to pass with the feedback provided. What exactly does this accomplish when it comes to aviation and public safety?
Transport Canada has missed the mark with their approach in the new regulations, especially around the exams. They clearly do not understand the target audience both in terms of what they should know to fly safely or even in terms of using everyday common language vs technical aviation jargon.
If you want an effective set of regulations they need to be easy to understand, easy to follow, and easy to enforce. If they are not then people will either find work arounds or ignore them all together. The new drone regulations for Canada miss on all marks.