Canadian authorities continue to hunt for the operator of a “rogue drone” that allegedly flew too close to a passenger jet. A pilot has reported that they sighted a drone 80 feet away from the passenger plane as it came in for landing; the pilot took evasive action and landed the plane safely. The reported incident happened at Winnipeg International Airport on Saturday.
Personnel at Nav Canada, Canada’s privatized air traffic control organization, contacted police about the incident at about 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, the Winnipeg Free Press reports.
Winnipeg’s Police Service has taken the complaint seriously, and are actively hunting for the drone’s operator. While the operator has so far been unidentified, police believe that the drone originated around the University of Manitoba campus, and are concerned because the pilot saw the drone at an altitude of 3,000 feet – well above what regulations allow for either recreational or commercial drones.
“Whoever was operating this UAV put it up into a flight path. This wasn’t somebody taking pictures of a baseball diamond,” said Rob Carver, Winnipeg Police Constable, in a statement. “Not only does it contravene all sorts of Transport Canada rules and regulations regarding UAVs, a slight error could have put this into collision with the aircraft, which could have been catastrophic.”
Despite a spate of recent false alarms about near misses between drones and aircraft – most notoriously, the reported drone that turned out to be a plastic bag at Heathrow Airport – the incident has already spurred a move towards more drone regulation in Canada. Transport Canada’s recent announcement of a drone education program, combined with “No Drone Zone” signage, was moved up in response to the report. The agency says that they intend to introduce new regulations in the coming months, including expanding the drone registration program to include drone markings.
If found to have violated existing regulations, the rogue drone operator could face fines up to $25,000 and jail time.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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