Certified Drone Pilot: A practical project

To add an extra dimension (literally) to my photographic skill set I recently invested in a drone. Being able to place a camera in the sky exactly where and exactly when I want it, is priceless. It’s an airborne tripod.

The physical learning curve was easiest. As a gamer for many years, using a controller holds no fear. A matter of muscle memory and practice. The mental learning curve takes more.

Days were, anyone could go into a store, buy a drone and throw it in the air without training or practice. Some still do. Many drone horror stories were caused by fools with beer in them. The law tells you clearly not to fly over property and to respect privacy – that drone hovering over your house is unlikely to be a licensed pilot, since they know both the dangers and the penalties that could follow.

As a side note, all drones now must by law be registered with the government and marked with the owner’s contact information. If a drone is involved in an accident or incident somewhere it is not supposed to be, the owner can quickly be traced. Again, no licensed pilot would do anything illegal, if only from self interest. If an unregistered drone is involved and / or the pilot is not registered and licensed, they are in a serious world of hurt. Like crashing a car without having a license or insurance, it’s something only a fool would risk. Sadly, there are many of those around. Such are the ones likely flying over your house.

I think it’s important to point out that things are changing. From June 1st 2019, though anyone can still walk into a store and buy a drone, all Canadian drone owners must be certified and carry documentation to prove it. Drone serial numbers must be registered, and the drones themselves marked with the owner’s name and contact information. By law. Without it, you are looking at a world of financial hurt, and even jail time. Seriously, it’s not worth it. If this applies to you, get certified and register your drone. Or stop flying.

To get that certificate requires extensive study and passing an exam. A real exam, issued by the actual Canadian government. There are a lot of rules to learn, a lot of laws to know. Covering things like theory of flight, flight ops, navigation, aviation law, emergency procedures and radio. Real-world studying is required if you want this. I did.

On June 1st, I was one of the very first to take the exam. I passed, and am proud to say I am fully certified to fly my registered drone in Canadian airspace. I’m air legal.

And that is what this article is about. Kind of.

In the drone community it is common knowledge that Canadian drone pilots must be certified. What is not so well understood by the public is who can legally demand to see certification and registration.

Side note: Some have said they will shoot a drone out of the air if it goes over their house. An understandable reaction to an invasion of privacy, but neither practical or legal. Destroying property, discharging weapons in residential areas, and causing damage to whatever the stricken drone hits on the way down (including people) will undoubtedly get you arrested. Please, don’t. Find another way.

As a pilot I operate away from crowds and busy places. However, I expect to be challenged occasionally by members of the public. Just like pointing a camera in the direction of a crowd of people, it can make people uneasy. I get it. Street photographers face this every day. I’ve encountered it myself.

But when an irate citizen marches up and demands to see your paperwork, what is a drone pilot to do? Especially if the bird is still in the air while someone is yelling at them? Tugging at their arm? Trying to grab the controller? A distraction, at best. Downright dangerous, at worst.

First, relax. If you are licensed, you already know where you can and can’t fly.

Second, regardless of why they are doing it that irate citizen is actually the one breaking the law. By interfering with flight operations they create an imminent danger to the public. Straight up, they can be arrested on the spot for that, and if an accident occurs the weight of the law will fall on them. You can tell them so, if necessary, to get them off your back long enough to bring the bird safely down.

Third, smile. And point to your chest. At the T-shirt I made, which you can buy should you wish.

This is the practical project part of the article. I took one of my favourite sunrise photos and put a shot of my drone on top. A little Photoshop, then I added “Certified Drone Pilot” in large text. Below that I included an extract from the SOA regulation which states who can legally demand to inspect a drone pilot’s documents – that does not include Joe Public.

Certified Drone Pilot - Licensed To Fly

By law, only (and I quote), “… a peace officer, immigration officer, or the Minister.” can demand docs. Which is perfectly fair. Otherwise, it’s like me demanding to see your driver’s license or SIN number. You don’t have to show it just because I walk up to you and demands it. I mean, your driver’s license has your home address on it – and so does the drone certificate. I’m not giving that up to any Angry Man.

Wearable

I will wear this T-shirt with pride, whether I’m flying or not. I earned my certification.

I didn’t create this design for confrontation, but for fun and for conversation. If it comes to it, though, I expect to be able to land my drone while irate citizen is reading – which helps public safety. We can worry about dealing with the angry factor once the bird is safely down. This design will, I hope, minimize confrontations. The words ‘Certified Drone Pilot” might be the difference between a civilized conversation, a punch up, and a drone crashing into something.

In closing, most pilots are sensible and legal. They don’t send up their drones to fight with someone. Or to put anyone at risk. I go to fly and take photos. Like the one of the Sugarloaf Marina below. I am above all else a responsible adult, a law abiding citizen, and a nice guy when left to my totally legal activities. In other words…

I am a certified drone pilot.


I just ordered my T-shirt. If you would like one of these yourself, a range or wearables for both men and women are available, in a range of colours, along with other items like phone and tablet cases.

They can be found along with my other offerings at the link HERE.

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