By Nancy Spratt, HCBC Recreation Coordinator
Just when you’ve put in the work to get your horses accustomed to dogs, bikes, strollers, umbrellas, quads, and whatever else you might meet on the trail, out of the sky drops what looks like a buzzing cross between a drink-tray and a dragonfly – it’s a drone!
Drones, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAV, have exploded in popularity in Canada, and it’s a safe bet that trail riders will come into contact with one at some point. Consumer spending on drone purchases in Canada are predicted to go from $5.24 billion this year to almost $11.2 billion by 2020. Recreation areas have scrambled to come up with regulations to govern drone use, and some have banned amateur use altogether. It is illegal for a non-professional flyer to use a drone in Canada’s national parks, for instance, incurring fines up to $25,000.
Drones come under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada and Canadian Aviation Regulations. Effective June 1, operators with drones larger than 250 grams (about half a pound) must be certified. The new rules are:
- All pilots must be certified and all drones registered.
- All pilots must pass an online exam to get a certificate for basic or advanced operations.
- Pilots must be at least 14 years old for basic operations and 16 years old for advanced operations, unless supervised by a person having proper qualifications.
The rules state that any operator must fly their drone away from bystanders, at a minimum horizontal distance of 30 metres (about 100 feet) for basic operations. They also have to keep their drone in their own line-of-sight at all times. If a drone is hovering over or circling you and your horse, with no operator in sight, both the foregoing regulations are being broken.
Riders and drivers will need to confront this growing safety issue head on. Is it worth it to train your horse to handle a drone in its airspace? Given the rising popularity of these airborne robots, it might be a good idea. Whether or not you choose to work with a drone operator to acclimate your horses to encountering them, if you have an incident with a drone on the trails you ride, don’t fail to report it. Send a written report to the land manager of the spaces you ride in, and to the local police. You can also find information drones, how to fly them safely and legally, and an Incident Report Form HERE.
Main photo: Shutterstock/GLF Media