MLA: Protecting public safety in the era of drones

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson says challenge for government regulations to keep pace with changing technology.

  • Sun Jul 31st, 2016 6:00am
  • News

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson.

Drones have become popular gadgets these days.

These small, remote or GPS-controlled aircraft are fun to operate, and can be equipped to send digital images to the operator. But used in the wrong circumstances, they can pose significant danger to other airspace users and to the public.

 

You might remember the troubling use of drones that we saw during last year’s wildfire season here in British Columbia. Firefighting efforts had to be grounded at times due to the presence of unauthorized drones. That puts lives at risk, and could cause the fire to spread even further.

That’s why our government has launched a public awareness campaign to deter people from this behaviour, and raised penalties for those caught ignoring these serious warnings.

More recently, the province has strengthened regulations to ensure that hunters do not use flying drones to help them track wildlife. The changes help ensure that the rules are in line with what most hunters already practice, and help preserve the wild, beautiful backcountry experience that visiting hunters expect when they hunt big game in British Columbia.

Before the change, Section 27 of the Wildlife Act made it illegal to use a helicopter to hunt in British Columbia, although the province contended that drones were a kind of helicopter. We have now amended the Wildlife Act to make it illegal for people to operate or possess a drone, or use data obtained by a drone, while on a hunting or trapping expedition.

It is also now illegal for a third party to use a drone to help a hunter or trapper. The minimum fine for hunting with a helicopter or drone is $2,500 – although a first conviction could cost a hunter $250,000 and up to two years in jail.

The changes are supported by the B.C. Wildlife Federation, B.C. Trappers Association and Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. Other provinces that have banned hunters from using drones include Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Using drones can be a fun recreational activity, so long as they don’t put people in danger. We have to make sure that our regulations keep pace with technology, and these measures will address these concerns.