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A proposed “Code of Conduct”

Here at The Digital Circuit, we like to keep our eyes out on what other websites are doing. Not so much from a competitive aspect; it’s more to ensure we don’t miss something important and worth sharing with our viewers/readers/regulars.

One of the sites we quite like is Flitelab – a UAV resources company offering imaging and support (including custom builds) based in the province of Nova Scotia in eastern Canada. Though some of Flitelab’s posts are specific to Canadian regulations, there’s a lot of clear, no-nonsense advice that’s tremendously useful for both novices and pros in the UAV field.

Recently, we noticed that Flitelab posted a proposed “Code of Conduct” on its blog section. Flitelab also invited people to contribute their own ideas, to help make the code a living and evolving document.

The Flitelab blog page

We really like this idea. So we contacted Flitelab partner Mark Langille to ask him a few questions, and also request permission to reprint the proposed code. Mark graciously granted us that request (thanks, Mark!) and took the time to answer a few of our questions.


Q: What prompted the ‘Code of Conduct’ post?

A: Part of our unofficial “mandate” with Flitelab is to try and give back to the industry through various info and articles on our blog.  The Code of Ethics article came about as a means to try and drive home a few key points that those new to the industry (and possibly new to operating a business in general) may have not considered.  While many of the items are “common sense” to most they can easily get overlooked in the rush to get into the drone biz.

Q: What do you believe should happen to people who violate clear rules?

A: At this stage in the game I think the time has come for placing fines and making examples those that choose to violate the rules.  We are beyond the point where not knowing what the laws are should be an acceptable excuse.  Far too many are exploiting the forgiving nature of Transport Canada (or other regulatory bodies – added by editor) and use this as a means to circumvent regulations that others try and follow.  We have an unfair playing field as a result and I think it is time to be a bit more strict in enforcing the regulations.

Q: What are your thoughts on a mandatory registration of any drone that is clearly not a toy (Canada-specific)

A: Given the botched attempts in this country with gun registration I’m always fearful of the mess the government could make trying to implement such central data systems for drones.  Given the potential numbers of UAVs out there a registration system might be a lot for Transport Canada to manage with their limited resources.  A good first step may be mandatory identification on the aircraft, something much easier to implement vs registration.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: We all have a part to play in helping manage and grow the industry in a healthy way.  The more we all can help new members do things right the better we will all be in the long run.  Transport Canada has limited resources so it is up to the industry to try and self-regulate as much as possible, otherwise we may have restricted law forced on is.

Thanks, Mark. Below, a reprint with permission. Though a few points relate specifically to Canada – the general guidelines apply to pretty much anywhere on earth.


Drones are an amazing tool for both commercial and recreational users to get unique bird’s eye views of the world around us. Unfortunately when it comes to some users common sense in their usage does not always seem to apply.  There needs to be a level of respect and safety shown, over and above the legal aspects of drone use. Just because you can fly doesn’t mean you should.

To that end here are some general guidelines & basic codes of conduct that should be considered.

  • Firstly all operators, be they commercial or recreational, must follow the rules and regulations set out by the authority in your country (Transport Canada regulations & guidelines), which lay out when, where, and how a drone can be used. These typically includes things like not flying over people, keeping the aircraft within line of sight, and making sure you are properly trained on the UAV.
In this case, YouTube creator/pilot Stefan Ekstam posted his flight as a lesson/warning to others
In this case, YouTube creator/pilot Stefan Ekstam posted his flight as a lesson/warning to others
  • Know the airspace you are planning to fly in and make sure you know where all the airports and helipads are, and give way to manned aircraft. This is the law and you don’t want to be the person that causes the first major accident between a drone and an aircraft. If you are unsure then don’t fly. Be respectful of the airspace you are in and share the sky.
  • Be respectful of other’s privacy and don’t become a spy. Don’t follow people or fly over houses/private property without permission. Make sure you are visible when flying so if someone has a concern they know who is in control.
    While existing privacy laws lay out what you can and can’t record already, respect should be given even when people are in a public setting. Privacy laws for a drone are no different than for traditional photography.
  • Get permission before you fly.  Many parks and public areas may have restrictions and bylaws controlling when and where you can fly.
  • Don’t become a nuisance or distraction. People aren’t usually at an event/location to see drones fly, so keep your distance and don’t become a distraction.
  • Keep your distance from wildlife.  These systems can stress and even injure animals if flown too close. Birds and other animals may see the drone as a threat and try to attack it which can lead to injury.
  • Stay clear of emergency situations.  First responders need to react quickly, getting in the way to get a photo of an accident could lead to delays that impact life and property.
  • If weather conditions are poor the drone should not be flown regardless of how important the potential footage may be. The operator should be well aware of a craft’s operational limitations.
Phantom 4 Pro +
Ensure your gear is in good working condition
  • Make sure the drone is well maintained and in proper working order.  Don’t fly a system with known issues.
  • Don’t fly if you are tired, under the influence, or not well prepared.  You are the key link in the chain of command and have ultimate control over safety, only fly when you are 100% up to the task.
  • Always have a spotter, don’t drone alone.  There is a lot to manage to fly safely and an extra set of eye’s are critical to make sure no surprises happen.
  • Don’t fly over active highways and roads, it is a distraction to drivers and could lead to an accident.
  • If you see another drone operator flying in an unsafe manner try to educate them in a polite and friendly manner.  Many new people are unaware of the rules and general safety and a bit of help can go a long way to building a better community of users. If they are unwilling to listen and feel outside the law then reporting them to local law enforcement or Transport Canada may be the only option if you feel they are putting others at risk, but always try to educate as a first step.
  • Always remember that you are an ambassador and the face of all drone pilots when in public. If approached by someone who has issues or concerns be prepared to listen and to show that their concerns will be taken seriously. Offer to explain the benefits and enjoyment of these systems.
  • Use common sense. At the end of the day it comes down to applying basic common sense and respect.  Don’t do something unsafe or that could harm or upset others.

If you have other suggestions let us know, the more we can share & educate other operators the better the public perception of drones will become.

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