Transport Canada publishes draft drone rules – still not hobbyist friendly

In March I wrote about Transport Canada’s overly restrictive drone rules.  A few weeks ago they lightened those rules a bit.

Transport Canada just released draft permanent rules for comment.  They propose a complex set of rules that vary among 5 different categories of drone.  While the proposed rules will make commercial use a bit easier, they are not friendly to personal use.

MobileSyrup details the proposed rules and comments that: “The new rules, if approved, would dramatically reduce the paperwork burden on both Transport Canada and commercial drone operators, but they would also increase the costs for all pilots while their impact on air safety remains uncertain.”

Unless the drone is 250 grams or less, even hobbyists must have insurance, and must pass a written test.  Drones must also be compliant with a yet to be named standard.

This is being done in the name of safety, but strikes me as being overly complex and burdensome.  The rules are open for comment until mid October.

Cross-posted to Slaw

Did Transport Canada just ground the Canadian hobbyist Drone market?

Transport Canada just put in force an order regarding the recreational use of model aircraft, enforceable by a $3,000 fine. Details are in the graphic below and on the Transport Canada Web site.

Operation of a drone over 35 kg, or for commercial use, has not changed, and still requires a Special Flight Operations Certificate.

Restrictions on flying near airports and aircraft are understandable.

But you can’t operate a model aircraft “at a lateral distance of less than 250 feet (75m) from buildings, structures, vehicles, vessels, animals and the public including spectators, bystanders or any person not associated with the operation of the aircraft”.

If we think about that, it leaves almost nowhere to fly.   You can’t fly it with a friend within 250 feet – unless somehow the friend is “associated with the operation of the aircraft”.   And what is meant by not operating within 250 feet of animals?  If you are in a remote area away from buildings and vehicles, there is likely to be some kind of animal nearby.

Given how restrictive these rules are, not many people will want to own one, and those who already own one may have trouble finding a place to fly it.

The Drone Manufacturers Alliance “believes new drone regulations announced today by Transport Canada will provide only a negligible increase in safety while sharply curtailing the ability of Canadians to explore, photograph their country, and teach their children about science and technology.”

They also said  “The Drone Manufacturers Alliance expects all our members’ customers to fly safely and responsibly, and our years of experience show that technology and education provide a better solution than a hastily-written ban.

Aviation authorities around the world have never recorded a single confirmed collision between a civilian drone and a traditional aircraft. Indeed, many initial drone sightings reported by aircraft pilots have turned out to be birds, balloons or even a plastic bag.”

The only realistic drone to purchase now in Canada are those that weigh 250 grams (0.55 pounds) or less, which are exempt from the rules.  Drones that small may not be as capable as larger ones, but they do exist.

Cross posted to Slaw

Perspective is an important element of Privacy

Todays Slaw post:

One thing I find consistent about privacy issues is an inconsistency in approach and viewpoint.  What is and is not deemed acceptable seems to change dramatically based on several factors, including geographic location (which I suppose is really more of a cultural issue than a geographic one), whether it is about one’s own information or you are doing something with someone else’s information, and whether the party with the information is government or business.

Many times it comes down to issues of trust, understanding, surprise, and how public one wants their life to be.

An example is in this article entitled Eric Schmidt is using the same argument against drones that others use against Google Glass.

One of the most common concerns raised about Google Glass (other than looking like a nerd) is the potential for privacy invasion.  The more of these there are around, the more likely each one of us is going to be captured on the video they can take whether we like it or not. And where is all this video going to end up?  That issue has also been raised about drones.  Google’s Eric Schmidt has apparently stated that drones should be strictly regulated for privacy reasons, which seems inconsistent with their approach to Google Glass.

Perhaps one explanation for this could be that privacy in the United States is viewed differently than in Canada and other parts of the world.  In the US, privacy is not approached as a holistic discrete topic to be regulated by general principles.  Instead, it is regulated on a piecemeal basis, such as a privacy law that applies only to movie rentals.

Drones offer whole new candid camera

For the London Free Press – October 15, 2012

Read this on Canoe

Unmanned aerial vehicles may soon be collecting information on people living out their everyday lives

Unmanned aerial vehicles, also called UAVs and drones, are becoming more commonplace. They bring significant privacy issues because the vehicle’s cameras and sensors may soon be collecting information on people living out their everyday lives.

Unmanned aerial vehicles are aircraft controlled remotely by computer. They contain features such as cameras, listening devices or infrared sensors. The aircraft come in various shapes and forms, from micro drones capable of flying through hallways, to aircraft size high altitude long endurance drones.

The estimated $6 billion spent on drones globally in 2011 is expected to double in the next 10 years. Leading the demand domestically are government organizations requiring surveillance systems such as border patrol and national security agencies. There are 220 drone-related firms in Canada and 60 government organizations interested in drones. They also are available to the public. Anyone with a smartphone can easily own and operate a small camera-carrying drone for under $350.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario recently released a paper entitled Privacy and Drones: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. She states:

“Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) present unique challenges due to their ability to use a variety of sensors to gather information from unique vantage points — often for long periods and on a continuous basis. The prospect of having our every move monitored, and possibly recorded, raises profound civil liberty and privacy concerns.”

The commissioner believes the solution is “privacy-by-design.” This means that privacy features should be built into drones and their operation. The notion is that if privacy is built in from the beginning, function does not have to be compromised by privacy concerns, and vice versa.

This approach may overestimate the extent to which designers and users are willing to invest in features that protect the public’s privacy.

Some proposed features seem more feasible than others. For example, requiring restrictions to be put in place such as limited memory capacity or restrictions on an operator’s ability to adjust a camera are by their very nature detrimental to the functionality of the drone.

On the other hand, embedding the use of anonymous video analytics seems more feasible, since this software destroys information in real time, thus preventing its capture in the first place. That type of feature is more probable on drones used for purposes unrelated to individuals. But it defeats the purpose of those used by governments and law enforcement for the purpose of surveillance.

The focus on drone regulation in Canada seems to be safety, rather than privacy. Special flight operation certifications are needed to fly a drone in Canada if it is not being done for recreational purposes. The Privacy Commissioner recommends that preplanned drone routes be assessed for potential privacy violations. Depending on the route planned and the details required, that could either be a simple task or an extremely onerous, expensive one.

Drones with increasingly superior technology will continue to present privacy concerns. Privacy-by-design is an elegant theory, but may not be enough to prevent a surveillance-by-design world.