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Local commercial drone user comfortable with new rules

New rules surrounding drone usage will likely only deter some hobby fliers in Grande Prairie. That’s the thought of Andrew Jones, who uses drones in his job as a producer and director with Checkered Owl Media.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau issued the stricter regulations on the use of drones in Canada last week. They include users having to register their drones and pass a test to become a certified pilot.

Jones immediately registered his equipment and took the test, even though the new rules won’t be enforced until June 1st. However, he says it wasn’t easy.

“The test, to me, did seem a little more difficult than most people are probably required to have to go fly around a field, but, at the same time, I suppose they want people to actually know how to use them before they’re out there flying around and potentially in dangerous situations.”

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The federal changes follow consultation with the public and people in affected industries, as well as hundreds of reported incidents involving drone safety. Jones says he appreciates knowing what the law will be, after uncertainty during the process.

“It is nice to have some clarity after the last year when everyone knew changes were coming and you were trying to decide what training was worth spending your money on; it was really unclear what was going to happen.”

As a commercial drone user, Jones says he currently has to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate. That requires mandatory flight school training, and he will have to travel to get more should he want to get a certificate for advanced operations.

Overall, Jones argues that the $5 registration and $10 test shouldn’t be a major factor for someone who has shelled out more than $1,000 on a drone. He believes the fines of up to $25,000 with possible jail time will be enough to get most people to comply.

“It becomes a hobby that you have to really think if you want to invest some time into before you get into it, as opposed to a remote controlled car that you can pull out of the box and drive around.”

The new rules also ban the flying of drones while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, use by people under 14 years old, flying higher than 122 metres above ground level or 30 metres above a building or structure, and flying over or near an emergency scene unless done by a certified first responder. All drones that weigh between 250 grams and 25 kilograms must be registered with Transport Canada.

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