UPDATED: New regulations have Atlantic Canadian drone users buzzing

This recent photo of downtown Amherst, N.S., taken by Adam Bickle with his drone would not be possible under the new regulations.
Adam Bickle

KENTVILLE, N.S. - Playing with drones is a hot hobby, but new guidelines from Transport Canada are causing concern among recreational users of the flying devices.

The new rules announced March 16 for model aircraft include restrictions on when and where drones are used for fun.

Transport Canada’s restrictions say do not fly your drone:

·      higher than 90 metres above the ground

·      closer than 75 metres from buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals, people/crowds, etc.

·      closer than nine kilometres from the centre of an aerodrome (any airport, heliport, seaplane base or anywhere that aircraft take-off and land)

·      within controlled or restricted airspace

·      within nine kilometres of a forest fire

·      where it could interfere with police or first responders

·      at night or in clouds

·      if you can’t keep it in sight at all times

·      if you are not within 500 metres of your drone

·      if your name, address, and telephone number are not clearly marked on your drone.

'YouTube cowboys'

St. John’s journalism instructor Jeff Ducharme  says the regulations are necessary.

The issue is“… the guys who plop down $1,500 on a drone at the local electronics or hobby store, take the drone out of the box, slap the battery in it, read the quick reference guide — one of the worst things to ever happen to drones —start the engines up and straight up in the air,” Ducharme told TC Media March 29.He has been teaching a a drone journalism course at the College of the North Atlantic since 2013.

“People want to be YouTube cowboys. They want to put these videos up and get 100,000 views. They want to go to viral. This is a driving factor. They’re not interested in doing anything.”

Read more: Maverick drone pilots spoiling the party for responsible users



Amherst, N.S., recreational drone user Adam Bickle.
Andrew Wagstaff

Amherst Nova Scotia’s Adam Bickle told TC Media these regulations basically ground his drone.  Because of the helipad located at Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre, that means a big change for Bickle and his drone.

Read more: New drone rules too restrictive, says Northern Nova Scotia user

 “It more or less wipes out the entire town of Amherst,” he said. “Yesterday I went out exactly nine kilometres from the helipad and ended up being through Maccan just before the train bridge. I put it up 90 metres and could barely see anything there. It really wipes out any sort of video or photo over Amherst.”

How close are you to an aerodrome? Here’s Wikipedia’s list of airports and aerodromes in Canada.

This map, released by the Yarmouth International Airport, shows restricted areas where model aircraft and drones cannot be operated.
Contributed photo

The implementation of new Transport Canada safety rules for recreational drones and similar units is welcome news to management at the Yarmouth International Airport in southwest Nova Scotia.

Airport manager Mike Fields told TC Media the potential risk associated with unregulated use of model aircraft and recreational drones is serious.

One incident at the Yarmouth airport a few years ago involved a teenage tourist who decided to do some recreational sightseeing with his drone over the town. He was unaware of the Yarmouth airport and launched the drone without determining the distance from the airport. During the flight he lost control of the drone; it flew across one of the active runways and was later found within the airport’s fenced perimeter.


“This could have had serious consequences,” said Fields.

Mark Voutier, owner of Island Aerial Media in Sydney, N.S., flies an unmanned aerial vehicle.

While the new rules apply only to recreational users, commercial users are also uneasy about might come next from Transport Canada. 

Mark Voutier, owner of Island Aerial Media in Sydney, N.S.,  told TC Media he has mixed feelings about the development.

Read more: Droned out: New rules don't fly with Sydney business owner

When the owner of Pale Blue Dot Travel YouTube channel read the new regulations, he was unimpressed.

“We essentially have a $1,200 paperweight,” the drone enthusiast said in an interview by Twitter direct message March 22. “Marc Garneau and his team should consult drone users and drone manufacturers on what steps to take to regulate the space.”

The video producer, who goes by @PBDtravel on Twitter, splits his time between Ottawa and Montreal.

“As a Canadian who wants to promote tourism to our country. Urban footage is something I want to do. New laws prevent that,” he wrote on Twitter.

@PBDTravel was one of a number of Canadians who took to the social media platform to try to find out more from Transport Canada.

Read some of the questions and comments from drone users in TC Media's Storify here: 

“My conversation with Transport Canada's Twitter handle was worrisome because it showed that there was a lack of preparation on their part,” he told TC Media. “The answers they gave were not helpful and instead ended up causing more confusion. It reinforced the perception that no real research was done on what rules were needed, and how to apply them. It also illustrated that they do not fully understand the space surrounding drones.”

He also published a YouTube video about the new regulations.


“In the hands of proper users, drones are tools that help complete a task,” @PBDtravel said. “Whether that is checking your crops out on a farm, taking aerial photography for a YouTube video, or using it on your fishing trip to find the right spot.

“They are tools, not toys. There is no doubt that regulations are needed to prevent users that would use drones in an irresponsible manner. But these regulations are too heavy- handed and as results have placed ALL drone users in the same situation.”