Lies, damned lies, and drone statistics

As Mark Twain once said:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

With recent comments from the Minister of Transport in Canada regarding the number of drone incidents this seems all too true.  In the Minister’s recent statement on the Quebec City drone incident it was stated:

For 2017, to date 1,596 drone incidents have been reported to the department. Of these, 131 are deemed to have been of aviation safety concern.

For those involved in the UAV industry these numbers came as a bit of a surprise, as the UAS Task Force had been stating 74 incidents to date as of Q2 2017:


A search on UAV related reports in CADORS showed only around 227 filings to date for 2017.

For further clarification on these numbers we reached out to Transport Canada via Twitter.  The following was their response:

The # of incidents comes from TC’s reporting tool and includes complaints not related to aviation safety. http://ow.ly/OaQz30fWDB2

So basically the 1,596 is based on all submissions via the online public reporting tool.  These are unverified and appear unreviewed as best we can tell and could cover any and all types of complaints from noise, privacy, safety, to merely someone not liking drones and wanting them stopped filing multiple submissions over and over potentially.

While we have no direct issue with the reporting tool, the fact that the number of submissions, which includes non aviation related issues, was quoted in the context of a possible incident with an aircraft is a concern, as it provides a misleading representation of reality on issues that have no bearing on drones and manned aircraft.

It is unfortunate that such data is being misrepresented with no clear definition of the source or the reliability of the information.


The Minister Who Cried Drone…

The events of Oct 12th over Quebec City where the reports of a drone collision with a manned aircraft are now worldwide news.  As we wrote on a few days ago there are many items that need to be questioned and considered at this stage given the few details we know.

As of today the TSB (Transportation Safety Board) has opened an investigation into the incident and in time we will hopefully know what actually transpired, and if a drone was or was not involved.

However as the matter stands now the public, and as well the Minister of Transport, has already been judge and jury and “confirmed” the incident as a drone strike, which is obviously pending an investigation given TSB just started the process.

The problem is the damage has already been done to the drone industry as a whole as a result of the unverified comments made by the Minister and in turn regurgitated by the media.  If and when an actual investigation finds the true events of what happened most will have moved on and the final report will unlikely carry as much weight in the daily news cycle as the initial dramatic report.

As a members of the UAV industry all we ask for is a fair and factual handling of the matter.  If indeed it was a verified drone collision then it needs to be addressed as such and publicized.  If it was something else, then the same needs to be disseminated.

Crying wolf, or worse yet in today’s lexicon “drone”, merely acts to raise fear in the public in the new evolving technology.  For a federal department that claims to be developing new regulations that account for the growth and “innovation” of drone technology, the comments this week do nothing to further that, and in fact give the appearance of an anti-drone stance within the department.

Expecting fair and balanced reporting  from the media on click bait stories that include “drones” is a pipe dream, but expecting the same from the Minister in charge of regulating and growing their usage is clearly another matter and one that should be unbiased and balanced.  I fear we are not getting such an approach.

In the end all we can do is wait for the facts and act based on what was determined to improve safety if needed and to erase the black eye otherwise.  Acting without these facts is unwise and dangerous and impacts many business trying to develop a foothold in this this new global industry.  Think before you speak.



Reported Canadian Drone Aircraft Collision – Things to Consider

The past few days the media has been filled with stories of the Oct 12th reported collision between a drone and a passenger aircraft, as outlined in this CBC story, one of many now being published world wide.

As Per the CADORS report:

A Beech A100 operated by Sky Jet (C-GJBV / SJ512), flying from Schefferville (CYKL), QC, to Quebec City / Jean Lesage (CYQB) QC, struck a drone on the nose of the aircraft at 7 miles in the final runway 24 to 2400 ft. The extent of the damage is unknown. The aircraft landed safely.

With the story comes a number of points that need be considered, as many run off in the direction of the worst case scenario.

  1. Was the report confirmed as a drone?  To date we have seen no physical evidence and as has been seen in the past, such as the case in the UK where the drone turned out to be a plastic bag, things are not always as they first appear.
  2. If it was in fact a drone, this would only be the second confirmed case worldwide, the first being the recent accident in the US with the Blackhawk helicopter.  While some may say any incident is one too many, given the number of drones being used the actual accidents have basically been nil.
  3. As with the Blackhawk incident, no injuries were reported and both aircraft were able to land with only minor damage.  Again if this was a drone the damaged caused seems to be minimal and not the horror story that some have predicted.
  4. The Minister reports that there have been 1,596 drone incidents to date for 2017 in Canada.  However CADORS only shows 227 cases and recent reports from the new UAS Task Force that is part of Transport Canada reported only 74 as of Q2 2017.  We are curious as to the variations in numbers being mentioned.
  5. If this was an actual drone incident it is in violations of the current regulations.  Either a recreational flight outside the altitude limits and distances to an aerodrome or a commercial flight that did not do proper coordination with ATC.  In either case adding more laws will not solve the problem, it is already an illegal operations.  What is needed is more education and more enforcement of the regulations we have now, not more laws that some will always choose to ignore.

At the end of the day incidents like this help no one, it gives drones a bad name in the eyes of the public and it causes knee jerk reactions from regulators.  However we need to consider the facts and not make judgement until all the details are known, or we may have another case of a plastic bag, but the public never see that, they merely remember the Minister crying foul against drones.

We all have a responsibility to fly safe, educate others, and to provide clear, correct information on issues like this and also the good drones do.  For every reported incident there are thousands of flights daily that are uneventful, many serving to grow the economy or the pure enjoyment of users.

Proposed Canadian UAV Regs Review – Still No LiDAR Allowance

Under existing regulations the use of laser payloads, such as LiDAR requires a special approval from Health Canada as well as a “special” SFOC for such use.

This will not change in the proposed new regulations, laser devices such as LiDAR will still require an SFOC, and are excluded under the new regulation primary allowances.

900.26 No person shall operate an unmanned aircraft if the aircraft is transporting explosive, corrosive, flammable or biohazardous material or a payload consisting of a directed bright light source as defined in section 601.14 or a payload that can be jettisoned, self-propelled, dispersed or dropped unless the operation is conducted under a special flight operations certificate — UAS issued under section 904.03 and the pilot may conduct an operation set out in subsection 902.51(2).

This is in our view short sighted by Transport Canada, given the growing industrial use of LiDAR on UAVs and the fact many are eye safe devices, used without restriction on ground based vehicles already.

Transport Canada UAS Task Force

As part of the recent Transport Canada regulatory engagement sessions on the proposed new UAV regulations was also the introduction of the newly created UAS Task Force.  It was noted during the session that this new group was formed as a result of new budget in 2017.

As per the presentation the Task Force is described as follows:

Introduction to the Task Force

Budget 2017 committed to modernize Canada’s transportation system, with funding for UAS to:

  • “Develop regulations for the safe adoption of connected and autonomous vehicles and unmanned air vehicles… Work with industry, provinces, territories and municipalities to establish pilot projects… [and] Provide the standards and certifications that industry will need to safely use these new technologies”

  • TC will implement Budget 2017 commitments through a dedicated UAS Task Force.

  • Mandated to address safety and regulatory gaps, proactively address UAS as a disruptive technology, and foster economic success for the industry.

  • Will deliver regulations, certifications, and standards to lay the foundation for the future of UAS in Canada, support innovative pilot projects and test sites, and work with industry to integrate UAS into Canada’s air transportation system.