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Ottawa drone users say they can still fly within new rules

Transport minister sets out new rules.

Transportation minister Marc Garneau announces new drone rules at Billy Bishop airport in Toronto.

Ellen Brait / The Toronto Star

Transportation minister Marc Garneau announces new drone rules at Billy Bishop airport in Toronto.

Ottawa drone users say new rules the federal government introduced last week won’t ground them.

Transportation Minister Marc Garneau introduced the new rules at an event at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport last week, saying it was time to regulate drones so they don’t interfere with airplanes.

"I take very seriously the increased risk to aviation safety and to people on the ground caused by drones,” he said in a statement.

Garneau said the government wanted to make the changes before a drone hits an airplane and causes a catastrophe.

“That's the kind of nightmare scenario that keeps me awake at night as your transport minister,” Garneau said.

People who want to fly a drone should follow rules, just as pilots do when operating a plane, Garneau said.

“If you are a pilot, you have very strict rules that you have to work by, so it is also important that we establish strict rules for other unmanned objects that are going to go into the airspace, because they are going to be sharing the airspace,” Garneau said.

The new rules prevent drones from flying higher than 90 metres , at night or within 75 metres of buildings or people. They are also prohibited from flying within nine kilometres of an airport.

People caught abusing these rules can face fines of up to $3,000. The rules don’t apply to drones being used for commercial or scientific purposes, which are covered under different regulations. The government put the rules in place immediately and will spend the next year considering changes.

David Cormier, a drone user and co-founder of FPV Ottawa, said the new rules are tight but there is still room for drone users to fly.

“They’re restrictive, but it needs to be regulated,” he said. “There need to be some sort of system.”

FPV Ottawa, which focuses on drones that user operate by looking through a set of goggles, has both an outdoor and an indoor facility.

He said their outdoor facility flies within all of the new rules.

“We are now a safe and legal place to operate drones in the Ottawa area,” he said.

Cormier said drones have definitely seen growth and are more sophisticated than when they first appeared, but he said more than anything it’s the explosion of interest.

“I don’t know if it’s the technology or the number of people using them now.”

He said the new rules might mean that instead of flying drones in their neighbourhood  park, users have to take their hobby somewhere else.

But he argues there is some benefit to that.

“Forcing people to come to zones that are safe, insured, regulated is a good idea."

- With Files from the Canadian Press

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