One afternoon in late June, an Albertan fired a shotgun at a drone.
According to an aviation incident report, the RCMP found the drone operator was in the right thanks to a flight certificate, as well as video footage to back up the claim that the flying machine hadn’t crossed over the shooter’s property line. The drone didn’t fly again that day.
It might sound like a crazy one-off, but something similar was reported in Oshawa, Ont. just a couple of months later. On Aug. 14, a real estate photo shoot went wrong, according to an incident report with the Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System (CADORS).
A neighbour reportedly shot at a commercial photographer’s drone three times as it flew over a property north of the Oshawa airport (although no one was injured).
Drone-related conflicts are on the rise, shows a National Post analysis of CADORS data.
In 2013, there was just one report involving an unmanned aerial vehicle and it involved a Canadian plane near the Boston airport. Incidents rose to 46 the next year and then to 87 in 2015. By 2016, the records jumped to 215. According to data downloaded on Oct. 23, there were 233 records for 2017.
Based on the 2017 data, there’s been at least one drone-related record for every province and territory except for Nunavut. Ontario and B.C. lead with 80 and 61 records respectively.
The records frequently reference sightings near Canadian airports: a pink one was spotted near Fredericton International airport in New Brunswick, an orange one near the Abbotsford, B.C. airport, and a neon-green one close to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.
In analyzing records that referenced Canadian airports, the Post found Pearson racked up the most drone-related incidents, followed by Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and Vancouver Harbour Water Airport.
Though the records largely involve sightings, a drone struck a commercial plane for the first time in Canada earlier this month. None of the eight people on board were injured on the aircraft, which was approaching Quebec City’s Jean Lesage airport.
“It was bound to happen,” says Greg McConnell, Chair of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association.
“You know how people line up around airports to watch airplanes land as a recreational activity? I think some are thinking that flying one of these drones with a camera on them and getting closer is perhaps an even cooler idea. They might be getting a little thrill out of doing this.”
It’s possible to buy an entry-level drone in Canada for as little as $40. High-tech, high-flying models can go for millions of dollars.
Aside from the hobbyists taking to the skies, there are dozens of businesses that offer drone photography for everything from real estate listings to weddings.
NGOs, environmental groups and law enforcement agencies are also using drones. Ducks Unlimited uses UAVs to get a better glimpse of bird habitats and the RCMP in Lunenberg, N.S. recently used a drone in a large drug bust. The Ontario Provincial Police frequently uses drones to help clear the scenes of traffic incidents or special investigations, according to durhamregion.com, as well as search and rescue missions.
But some drone activities are cause for concern. In July, RCMP reported a drone interfered with the emergency scene of a vehicle collision in Avonport, N.S., “infringing on rescue operations.” In August, Gatineau police told with the Aviation Operations Centre a drone had overflown the Gatineau Detention Centre.
New restrictions could be in place next year. Currently, operators of non-recreational drones need a Special Flight Operations Certificate from Transport Canada. Those flying for fun don’t need a certificate unless the UAV is 35 kg or more.
If approved, the new regulations would go into effect Jan. 1, 2018 and feature different age requirements for different sizes of unmanned aircrafts. Operators in urban settings with drones weighing 1 to 25 kg would need to register them and have drone-specific pilot permits and liability insurance.
These would be in addition to fines of up to $3,000 for breaking Transport Canada’s drone rules: No flying near airports and aerodromes, in national parks, over border crossings or busy, populated areas.
McConnell would like to see further regulations for operators in light of the potential damage drones can cause to planes. “They need to meet certain knowledge requirements and medical requirements.
“They need to know what the rules are.”