The federal government is imposing a series of new restrictions on the use of drones, requiring operators to be at least 14 years old and calling on all owners to register their recreational and commercial devices with Transport Canada, federal and industry officials said.
The new, more stringent rules, covering drones that weigh less than 25 kilograms, will be unveiled on Wednesday. They will also include an obligation for drone users to undergo online training and to inscribe a federal registration number on their devices, the officials said.
The announcement will come after a series of drone sightings led to runway closings and hundreds of cancelled flights at Gatwick and Heathrow airports in Britain in recent weeks. Airport authorities fear that drones could damage a plane in flight or cause a deadly crash after being sucked into a plane’s engine.
The officials said the new rules for drone use in Canada will include restrictions on their use within nine kilometres of airports. The three officials were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the new rules before they were formally announced in the Canada Gazette.
One of the biggest associations of drone operators in the country, Unmanned Systems Canada (USC), has been working with the government to develop the new rules for nearly a decade.
“The industry has been waiting for this a long time,” said USC chair Mark Aruja. “It’s going to be good for business, good for investors and, in this case, it’s going to be really good for safe operations.”
Police forces and government agencies such as forestry services regularly use thousands of drones to help them conduct law-enforcement operations or to monitor forest fires. On the business side, energy companies use drones to inspect pipelines while farmers use them to monitor livestock.
Mr. Aruja said that professional operators of drones will easily adapt to the new regulations. He predicted the government will face a bigger challenge in ensuring that recreational users comply with the new rules and understand how to apply them in practice.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau will announce the new rules in Montreal on Wednesday. He started imposing temporary measures two years ago to address a growing number of reported drone incidents across the country.
At the time, there had already been concerns over cases in which people flew drones over forest fires in British Columbia, forcing the grounding of water bombers. In other cases, seaplane and helicopter operations in Vancouver's Coal Harbour were halted because of drones flying overhead.
“The government certainly doesn’t want to restrict drones so much that we hinder innovation because it’s so important to our economy and standard of living,” Mr. Garneau said in 2017. “But, like any new technology, drones must be used with care. And we cannot wait until something bad happens before we act.”