Attack of the drones

Current regulations are being revised to save humanity from itself

Laura Melczer // Contributor

On Oct. 12, a drone collided with a passenger plane above the Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City. Luckily, there was minimal damage to the plane and there were no injuries or fatalities. The drone is estimated to have been flying at approximately 450 metres, according to a CBC report on the incident. Even though there was minimal damage to the plane and its passengers, the drone, which was flying above the current safety regulations for drones, put the plane and passengers at risk.

The current regulations, put in place by the Transport Ministry have been in place since June. There are guidelines on how high a drone can go. If a drone endangers the safety of an aircraft, the operator could be fined $25,000 or spend some time in prison. The proposed regulations set to be approved in 2018 will include a minimum age in which someone can fly a drone and outlines the mandatory test people have to take before they can operate a drone, and a registry with any names and addresses associated with the drone. It’s like the drone-version of the driver’s license program and the regulations on car use.

The current regulations along with proposed regulations that will come into place in 2018 are a good start to the conversation around drones. However, even these interim regulations aren’t enough to ensure public safety. If the current regulations on height, fines, or prison were enough, then there wouldn’t have been a collision. Period. And when the new regulations come into effect in 2018, there would need to be a large amount of enforcement to ensure that people are following through.

It is important to remember that no one got hurt and the drone caused minimal damage. That doesn’t mean that drones should be flying high enough to hit a plane in the first place. Part of the problem is that drones are widely accessible. Now, if people want to have a drone, then they have every right to own one. Drones themselves aren’t necessarily bad. Like any tool or piece of technology, they can be used well or used poorly. They are a lot of fun to fly around and can take beautiful aerial photographs. But drones are also more serious and potentially dangerous than they are made out to be and people need to adjust their usage accordingly.

When cars became more accessible, they created heavy regulations for public safety. With food production, before it ever gets to you, there are regulations to prevent food from spoiling or cause infection. So, when a new toy (that could fly 450 + meters upwards) is available to almost anyone for purchase, there needs to be strict and thoughtful regulation and examination to ensure that people can enjoy them without causing major harm. Especially because they will get more and more popular as the technology becomes more affordable. Once that happens, it will increase the chances of drone-related accidents. Heavy regulations will help to ensure that drones are used safely and within the public interest. And preventing collisions (minor or fatal) is more important than easy access to a major technological toy.

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