Unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, need regulation to ensure safety but the rules shouldn’t be so onerous as to prevent farmers from flying them, says Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) president Dan Mazier
“KAP would like dialogue before they (Transport Canada) make regulations,” Mazier said in an interview Sept. 3. “If they are going to put a certain regulation in at least consult farm groups or farmers and ask how they can work with it.
“This is supposed to be another tool for farmers. If they make it too onerous to get a licence or to use it they just won’t do it and there will be a lost technology that we just won’t be able to access because it’s just too much hassle.”
That’a the message KAP delivered in a submission, including nine recommendations, to the Canadian Aviation Regulations Advisory Council (CARAC) last month. The council, a joint effort of Transport Canada and the Canadian aviation industry, consults with the public on aviation regulations.
In 2016 Transport Canada says it will amend regulatory requirements for UAVs 25 kgs or less that are operated within visual line of sight. The changes are to ensure the safe operation of UAVs in Canada and will:
- Establish classifications, including a proposal for the possibility of having a very small (lower threshold) category of aircraft.
- Clarify terminology.
- Establish aircraft marking and registration requirements.
- Address personnel licensing and training.
- Create flight rules.
Transport Canada also says it will preserve the Special Flight Operating Certificate (SFOC) process for higher-risk operations, including UAVs larger than 25 kgs and those operated beyond visual line of sight.
Transport Canada is also proposing pilots flying small UAVs engaged in complex operations be properly trained and required to obtain a pilot permit by taking a test.
Thanks to lower prices and improved technology UAV use has taken off. In 2014 Transport Canada says it issued 1,672 SPOCs compared to 345 in 2012. That’s almost a fivefold increase over two years.
UAVs are increasingly popular among farmers and those working for them. They are a fast and efficient way to check crops and livestock.
To accommodate their growth in November 2014 Transport Canada adopted an interim strategy issuing two exemptions to the SFOC requirements and guidance material for lower-risk UAVs operating within specific conditions and weighing 25 kgs or less. Users operating a UAV weighing more than 25 kgs, or operating in higher-risk environments, still must apply for an SFOC. The exemptions are valid until December 2016.
KAP says the new regulations need to be flexible and reflect the risk, Mazier said. Tighter regulations make sense close to large urban areas where air space is busier and there are more people and buildings. But less oversight is needed in rural areas with lower populations and less congested skies, he said.
KAP made the following recommendations:
- Create regulations that ensure safety while still allowing for functionality.
- Utilize different categories of operational requirements based on use and risk.
- Be specific about geographic limitations outlined in operational requirements.
- Adapt UAV Operator Certificate Requirements to accommodate farmers and farm businesses.
- Develop exemptions for farmers who wish to use UAVs in close proximity to limited use aerodromes while still fulfilling the operational requirements of small UAVs (Limited Operations).
- Include no requirement for farmers to obtain an SFOC if they meet the UAV Operator Certificate Requirements for the UAV they intend to use.
- Develop a system of informing farmers about operating requirements.
- Develop a partnership between general farm organizations, Transport Canada and other stakeholders to create educational tools for delivering UAV information to farmers.
- Increase awareness around the use of UAVs and the regulatory requirements.