• John Jantak

Saint-Lazare cautions drone operators to follow Transport Canada guidelines


PHOTO COURTESY SAINT-LAZARE TRUTH SERUM

Saint-Lazare officials are advising amateur drone operators to be aware of the restrictions that are stipulated by Transport Canada before operating their equipment within the municipality.

The advisory comes after Transport Canada advised resident Richard Meades in a registered letter dated April 25, 2018, they would not pursue an investigation against him regarding an apparent drone flyover the new city hall last June because it was, “...determined that no violation had occurred.”

The original complaint was made in a registered letter to Meades dated October 19, 2017, from Transport Canada stating they were, “...investigating a possible violation...” that occurred, “...allegedly on or about June 26... (when) …you would have operated a model aircraft to take pictures of the city hall construction site which is within 5.5 kilometres from an aerodrome”.

Both letters were signed by Marc Hébert, Civil Aviation Safety Inspector for Transport Canada. Meades told council after receiving the letters that he doesn’t own a drone and the pictures he posted on an online blog were sent to him in an email.

Drone owner not identified

Daniel Boyer, Director of Fire and Public Security, who filed the complaint against Meades with Transport Canada said the only reason why the matter wasn’t pursued was because the town couldn’t ascertain who the owner and pilot of the drone was. “They never had any confirmation that Mr. Meades owned or was flying the drone even though he was the one who was posting pictures,” Boyer told The Journal.

“The issue was about posting photographs while probably illegally flying a drone over the city. What Transport Canada is telling us is that effectively, with all the information the city submitted to them, they could not pinpoint Mr. Meades on this matter. They didn’t have enough proof that it was directly him because we never saw him with a drone,” said Boyer.

Geneviève Hamel, the town’s Communications Director, agreed with the assessment. “The email we got from the Transport Canada law enforcement office doesn’t say he’s allowed to fly drones. What it says is that they could not prove without any doubt that he owned the drone and he flew it.

PHOTO COURTESY SAINT-LAZARE TRUTH SERUM

Hefty fines

“They sent us the regulations saying they couldn’t connect Mr. Meades to a drone and they didn’t have a visual confirmation of a drone. They don’t know if he owns one and they don’t have pictures of it flying over the city so they can’t tie Mr. Meades directly to an infraction. That’s why they’re saying the case is closed. They didn’t get enough proof,” said Hamel.

If Meades had been found guilty of contravening a Transport Canada regulation, he could have been fined up $3,000. “They say you cannot fly a drone within 5.5 kilometres of an aerodrome. The town hall is less than three kilometres from an airport,” said Hamel.

“On some of the pictures Mr. Meades posted on his blog, the drone was really close to the workers at city hall. It was also near the Trans Canada pipeline at Boulevard de la Cité-des-Jeunes,” Hamel added.

Danger to aircraft

The 5.5 kilometre no-fly-zone for drones was established by Transport Canada to ensure the safety of pilots who take-off and land at Cooper Aviation’s Saint-Lazare Airport and encompasses almost the entire municipality.

“The danger is that when you have small aircraft flying over the airport and they don’t see a drone, it can get into the propellers, cause a crash and kill people. There have been two small aircraft accidents in Saint-Lazare without drones being involved,” said Boyer.

“This is why we’re taking this security issue so seriously. There are a lot of planes flying all over the place. When people use drones to intentionally put some pictures on Facebook to make them look important, it’s very dangerous,” Boyer added.

Saint-Lazare doesn’t completely prohibit drones from the no-fly zone but they do require advance notice and certified pilots to operate them. The drone that was used to take pictures of the Festival au Galop last year was authorized. The drone fly-bys currently taking place to map the slopes in Chaline Valley are being done by professionals working with the provincial Ministry of Public Security, said Hamel.

“They’re called drone pilots because they need to get a flight plan authorized from Transport Canada,” said Hamel. More information about drones is available at the Transport Canada website at http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/opssvs/flying-drone-safely-legally.html.

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