On Sunday the Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said that for the first time in Canada a drone had collided with a passenger airplane. The commercial Skyjet plane was struck as it was approaching Jean Lesage airport in Quebec City on Thursday. Garneau confirmed that the airplane only sustained minor damage and was able to land safely. He was extremely relieved that nobody got hurt. He continued to say:

“This should not have happened. That drone should not have been there. It could have been much more serious. If the drone had collided with the cockpit or the engine, the incident could have been catastrophic.”

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Drone was flying too high and too close to airport

According to an airport official, the plane had originated in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec was carrying six passengers and two crew members and landed safely.

The drone was flying too high, at an estimated height of about 1500 feet an too close to the airport. This is the first time in Canada that a drone has collided with a commercial aircraft, Garneau said, and the use of drones at that altitude is in violation of regulations. At a press conference in Montreal on Sunday, he said:

“It’s important to note that aircraft are particularly vulnerable when on final approach coming in — the pilot is concentrating on landing properly”

Canadian rules on flying drones

Canada Transport continues to work to regulate the drone industry but has issued interim safety measures for drone pilots. It is illegal to fly a recreation drone within 5.5 kilometers (3.5 miles) from an airport and 1.8 kilometers (1 mile) from helipads without special permission. Garneau said that these final regulations will be approved in 2018.

The rules in short:

  • Anyone found to have endangered the safety of an aircraft could face a $25,000 fine or prison time.
  • The new rules will require a minimum age for drone pilots and a mandatory written test
  • Drone operators will be required to register their names and addresses on the drone itself.

These rules are in addition to the updated rules from March 2017:

  • Higher than 90 metres.
  • Within 75 metres of buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals or people.
  • More than 500 metres away from the user.
  • At night, in clouds or somewhere you can’t see it.
  • Within nine kilometres of somewhere aircraft take off or land, or a forest fire.
  • Without your name, address and phone number marked on the drone itself.
  • Over forest fires, emergency response scenes or controlled airspace.

In 2017 1,596 drone incidents were reported to Transport Canada. 131 were considered to be aviation safety concerns, the office of Garneau reported.

Reuters reported that back in 2016, a Canadian airliner carrying 54 passengers had two swerve to avoid a collision with an unmanned flying object near Toronto. Two cabin crew members were slightly injured.

As drone usage has increased dramatically over the last few years in North America, Europe and China, fears of collisions and privacy concerns have been raised, prompting the United Nations’ aviation department to support the creation of one single global drone registry.

Photo credit: Alain Denis

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