Fort St. John, Dawson Creek no-drone zones

New federal guidelines that came into effect late last year mean the skies in Fort St. John are considered a "no-drone zone."

The city was declared a no-drone zone by Transport Canada on Dec. 15, meaning drone enthusiasts are not allowed to fly their machines within nine kilometres of an airport. This effectively puts off the entire city for use by recreational drones. 

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The guidelines also mean that smaller drones cannot fly within the city limits of Dawson Creek, as the city's limits are smaller than a nine-kilometres radius. 

The rule applies to both smaller drones that weigh less than 77 pounds (35 kilograms). Drones that weigh more than 77 pounds, which require a special flight operations certificate, have different requirements. According to Transport Canada's rules, they have to provide a flight plan with air traffic services before they take off. 

Natasha Gauthier, a spokesperson for Transport Canada, said that the nine-kilometre rule was considered a guideline, meaning that while Transport Canada frowns upon the practice, people would not be subject to punishment if they were caught breaking these guidelines.

If a person flying a drone were to be caught interfering with an aircraft, they would be subject to punishment of fines or jail time.

"The goal of the regulation is to keep people safe, not only in the ground, but in the skies as well," Gauthier said. "You wouldn't want a drone to get near a plane that's landing or taking off, or potentially colliding, or causing a distraction to the pilot, manned aircraft, pilot in it."

Despite these new guidelines, Michael Whalley, the managing director of the North Peace Regional Airport, said the airport has not encountered problems with people flying drones near its air space. 

"In all honesty, I‘d have to say it’s something no different than controlling a remote airplane," he said. 

Whalley said people are generally capable of understanding to keep away from the airport's flight space.

The Encana Events Centre announced last March it had banned the use of drones in the centre. Transport Canada rules do not allow for the use of the drones at concerts or sporting events. 

reporter@ahnfsj.ca

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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