Drones getting too close for comfort, pilot/drone operator says
Drones are becoming the new must-have toy. Anyone can fly them and that can cause problems, especially for air traffic.
Chris LeGrow is an airline pilot and he operates a drone commercially with his St. John’s-company Cloudbreaker. He says it’s extremely frustrating.
“They’re so small that they have to be really close to the aircraft for you to see them,” said Legrow. “It really gets your dander up because you have enough to deal with flying into a busy airspace.”
In August, a drone was reported being flown near the St. John’s International Airport,
A recent report confirmed the drone was in the direct flight path of one of the airport’s runways.
Regulations state that recreational users cannot operate within nine kilometres of the airport. The drone was only 4.5 kilometres away.
“Referencing the centre of the airport, it’s pretty close,” LeGrow told CBC’s St. John’s Morning Show.
“We’re seeing a lot of recreational use within those boundaries especially in St. John’s.”
St. John’s harbour and Quidi Vidi have become very popular areas for drones to fly.
Legrow said spectacular scenery draws people to that airspace. The problem is that they’re both in the flight path for approach to one of the St. John’s airport runways .
“From a pilots perspective when we’re on approach to landing we’re concentrating on a lot of things and looking out for drones has become increasingly common for us now,” he said.
Drones operate over radio frequencies and are subject to many types of interference.
“So someone not trying to interfere with air traffic might be flying their drone over Signal Hill and there have been many occurrences where drones just fly off and they lose their link,” said LeGrow.
LeGrow operates a commercial drone, which cost his company $50 thousand. Many recreational users are buying cheaper models that do not have the same reliability.
Aviation is a highly regulated industry. Although, LeGrow believes that technology is changing so quickly and Transport Canada’s rules can’t keep up.
LeGrow would like to see users have to complete an online exam to be allowed to operate a drone.
“Is it the best thing in the world? No, but at least people now have proven that they’ve read the rules and met a certain standard,” said LeGrow.
“It’s dangerous and it’s also a privacy issue. People don’t necessarily want these things flying over their head.”