Drones fly over Calgary snapping photos

“Let’s face it, somebody’s going to do something bad”

CBC News | Jan 8, 2013

si-drone2Local real estate photographer Duane Wood has been using a small aerial camera to zoom over high-end properties and get the perfect shot — a bird’s eye view.

“We can shoot a house all we want, but at some point in time to really sell an acreage you need to see the land,” he said.

The new technology allows home buyers to get the perspective for only a few hundred dollars instead of hiring a helicopter and photographer for thousands.

Drone business is booming in the province, as more than 50 per cent of the country’s Unmanned Vehicle Services companies are located in Alberta because of wide-open spaces, minimal population and proximity to military bases.

But because Wood flies his small aircraft for money in Canadian airspace, he needs to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate each time.

“It’s for that particular job and it’s for that particular location,” he said. “If I deviate from that the certificate it is void.”
Rules vary for non-commercial drones

But rules that Wood has to follow for commercials purposes don’t translate to recreational drones, which require no permits.

One product is the Parrot Drone, which is controlled by a cell phone and takes pictures from the air.

PM Hobby Craft, a local store, told CBC News it is selling a lot of them.

Calgary Bylaw Services says it doesn’t have any rules for the emerging technology yet.

Tom Keenan, a technology expert and professor in the University of Calgary’s faculty of environmental design, says drone aircraft are very prevalent in the U.S. military and are being used for border control.

“What’s new is that anyone can have one now,” he said. “They’ve come down in price, they’re available to consumers and it turns out you’re able to fly it over your neighbour’s barbecue if you want.”

Keenan said the authority falls to Transport Canada, but it makes an interesting distinction.

“There’s unmanned aircraft and then there’s model aircraft,” he said.

“And the difference is a model aircraft is under 35 kilograms and not designed to carry a person or a living creature…So basically, these fall under that and they’re more or less unregulated.”

But Keenan expects regulations are on the horizon.

“Hopefully everybody will have common sense and respect their neighbour’s privacy and just go fly these out in the field or something, but let’s face it, somebody’s going to do something bad and there’s going to be a law,” he said.

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