On October 12, 2017, a Skyjet flight, on its final approach into Québec City, was struck by a drone. This aviation incident marked the first commercial aircraft strike by a drone in Canada. No one onboard suffered any injuries, and damage to the aircraft was, fortunately, minor.
Transport Canada tightened the reigns on drone operators (and, in particular, recreational users with the Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft, which was unveiled in March 2017, and amended in June 2017). Among other things, recreational users must stay at least 5.5km from airports (this drone was less than approximately 3km from the airport), and must remain at altitudes under 90m (this drone was flying at about 450m, or 1,500ft, well above the permitted altitude).
In an October 15, 2017 statement, Canada’s Federal Transport Minister, Marc Garneau, spoke of the need for drone operators to fly responsibly, and reminded recreational users of the serious penalties for violating the applicable regulations. Endangering the safety of an aircraft carries a heavy price tag – a fine of up to CA$25,000. Minister Garneau also provided some interesting statistics, stating that, so far in 2017, “1,596 drone incidents have been reported to [Transport Canada]. Of these, 131 are deemed to have been of aviation safety concern.” For more of Minister Garneau’s comments, see what he said to the CBC.
Incidents such as this reinforce the need for public educational programs to ensure that the drone industry does not get stunted – or worse, grounded – by the careless actions of a few. The proposed amended regulations—which should be in force in mid-2018—will require drone operators flying drones weighing more than 250g to adhere to stricter educational and safety requirements when conducting operations.