Delta Police and Transport Canada are investigating online footage showing a drone flying in close proximity to traffic on the Alex Fraser Bridge.
The two-and-a-half-minute video was published to YouTube on Friday, Oct. 27 and shows a group of men flying a drone up and down the pillars and cables of the bridge, as well as alongside traffic.
“You can have drones operated in certain areas but [they] must stay within the regulations,” said Delta Police public affairs coordinator Sharlene Brooks. “That area, Alex Fraser Bridge, is not a drone-approved area, both from an aviation point of view as well as a ground point of view.”
Under regulations brought in by Transport Canada last spring, drone pilots must keep their crafts within 90 metres of the ground and at least 30 metres from other vehicles, vessels and the public. The video appears to show the drone flying over the top of one of the bridge’s towers — at least 154 metres above ground level — and along the railing of the bridge, decidedly closer than the rules allow.
On top of that, drones must be at least 5.5 kilometres from aerodromes (any airport, seaplane base or other area where aircraft take off and land) and within sight of its operator at all times.
Ironically, the video begins with a warning to viewers that reads, in part, “Not all countries and regions regulate drones in the same manner. Always educate yourself on the current laws and regulations of the country, state, province or locality you are flying in.”
Individuals can be fined up to $3,000 per violation, meaning a flight like the one in the video could potentially cost someone upwards of $10,000. But, Brooks said, “If they’re a business and it’s a marketing or business venture, they could be facing upwards of $15,000 [per] fine.”
Operators can apply to Transport Canada for a special certificate to fly their drone in an area that’s otherwise off-limits, however, Brooks said it’s “highly unlikely” one was issued in this case.
“Transport Canada takes into account public safety, both from the air and from the ground,” she said. “Because these drones, you can lose control of them, … there could be a distraction if they fly them too low and in the way and in view of traffic. If they lose control and it just drops out of the air, it could smash into a vehicle, causing a bit of a chain reaction with the vehicle, perhaps a collision and subsequent injury.”
Brooks said the DPD did received a call about a drone flying in the area of the Alex Fraser Bridge on Oct. 24 at around 5:30 p.m., but could not confirm if the incident is related.
Though the video’s YouTube page lists a number of individuals involved in the video’s production, Brooks said it’s a challenge for investigators to determine when it was actually filmed, verify who produced it and locate the individuals.
The clip was uploaded to a YouTube page called Rotor Riot which hosts a weekly show “featuring the world’s most interesting and talented FPV pilots,” according to the description.
FPV refers to first-person view, also know as remote-person view (RPV) or video piloting, in which the drone is flown from a first-person perspective using an on-board camera, fed wirelessly to a video monitor, in this case goggles worn by the pilot.
Rotor Riot’s bio states its mission is “to grow the hobby and drone racing sport by connecting and inspiring individuals through high-end multi-rotor technology.”
Drones have become increasingly popular in the last several years, with everyone from recreational users to scientists and journalists using them to access areas and see things not easily observed.
Brooks said the DPD doesn’t field very many drone-related complaints, noting most owners use them according to Transport Canada guidelines.
“The foolishness of a few impacts the responsible majority,” she said. “It’s just a small group that draws negative attention to those majority that actually operate them responsibly and with the regulations.”