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Adam Bickle is upset that new Transport Canada regulations for recreational drone users have placed restrictions prohibiting from flying many places, including in and around Amherst.
©Andrew Wagstaff - TC Media
AMHERST, N.S. – Adam Bickle feels like he has been grounded, literally.
It really wipes out any sort of video or photo over Amherst. Adam Bickle
The local drone owner is disappointed with the new regulations for recreational drone use announced by Transport Canada, which will place stricter limitations on where and how the remotely operated equipment can be flown.
Among the new rules are stipulations that drones cannot fly higher than 90 metres; cannot fly at night; cannot fly within 75 metres of buildings, vehicles or people; and cannot fly within nine kilometres of the centre of any airport, heliport, aerodrome or water aerodrome where aircraft take off or land.
Because of the helipad located at Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre, that means a big change for Bickle and his drone.
A drone photograph taken by Adam Bickle near Five Islands Provincial Park.
“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.”
Bickle bought his drone, a DJI Phantom, last June for almost $1,000 and began flying it in mid-summer. Most of his early efforts were doing aerial video and photos around the north shore, and experimenting around some lighthouse and rock formations.
People soon began to take interest, and would ask him to get footage of their properties. It soon became a useful tool in helping them learn about the land they owned, from the amount of trees they had to the lay of their land.
This recent photo of downtown Amherst taken by Adam Bickle with his drone would not be possible under the new regulations.
For Bickle it’s been pure enjoyment.
“I just love being able to see things from a different angle,” he said. “We walk around, and drive around all the time, but now we can see from above and how close or far things are. Especially in the fall it’s nice to see the colour of the trees.”
One video he did over the Tidnish River ended up receiving more than 8,000 views on Facebook, which was unheard of for a guy who had not done much video at all.
But he could now be fined up to $3,000 should he fail to comply with the new restrictions, which Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced last week as a measure to prevent the reckless use of drones that he said is putting the safety of Canadians at risk.
“I take very seriously the increased risk to aviation safety and to people on the ground caused by drones,” said Garneau, who pointed out that incidents involving recreational drones have more than tripled since 2014. “That is why I am proceeding with this measure which takes effect immediately – to enhance the safety of aviation and the public while we work to bring into force permanent regulations.”
This photo of Springhill taken by Adam Bickle with his drone would not be possible under the new regulations because of the helipad at All Saints Springhill Hospital.
The new safety rules will be in effect for up to one year until permanent regulations are in place.
Bickle feels the new rules are too restrictive, and hopes they get revisited.
“If this was by the Moncton or Halifax airport, I get that and I’ve always respected that,” said Bickle. “But that helipad doesn’t have the same traffic, and, chances are, when you’re a competent flyer like I am, you can hear when a helicopter is nearby and have the common sense to land.”
He also pointed out that his drone has safety features such as collision avoidance, sonar equipment, and is controlled by GPS. If Bickle lets go of the controls, his drone just stays still, and if the connection is lost, it returns back to its starting point.
He also think there needs to be more categories of rules for different types of drones. Right now his drone, which weighs 1,280 grams, is lumped into the same category of much larger drones that weigh up to 25 kg.
“If my drone lands on something, the drone is done because it’s just plastic,” he said. “There would be more damage to a car from hitting one with a home run from a softball.”
This photo taken by Adam Bickle with his drone in Maccan is the closest he can fly the equipment to Amherst, nine kilometres away, under the new regulations.