‘Ottawa’ Drone Near Miss With Edmonton Police Helicopter Prompts Warning
Authorities are pleading with unmanned aerial vehicle and drone operators to follow Transport Canada recommendations after Edmonton Police Service’s Air 1 helicopter almost collided last month with a quadcopter.
What happened: Pilot Const. Brian Griffith was responding to a call around 10 p.m. on July 8 over downtown when he had a near miss. The helicopter was at an altitude of about 1,500 feet and travelling at 180 kilometres per hour when it passed within 32 feet of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
“It was quite alarming to us,” Griffith said. “Initially, I wasn’t sure what it was, whether it was a bird, but it was close enough that I could clearly identify it as a quadcopter. I immediately turned and tried to acquire the drone to see if I could see the operator, but my concern at that point was putting myself at more risk (by) running into this thing.”
Not the first time: But it was definitely the closest, Griffith said. In fact, two smaller UAVs were spotted in the same area about 30 minutes after the near miss.
“Vigilant operators are obeying recommendations (but) now we are starting to see more and more that are operating in what would be considered very dangerous to normal aviation (ways),” he said. “I hope that the incident wasn’t malicious.”
Grave danger for everyone: Had the two aircraft collided, Griffith said the consequences were “potentially catastrophic.”
“If we were to take it in the windshield at that closure rate, it could come through and incapacitate the pilot. If it went into the tail rotor or main rotor or ingested into the engine, it could cause a complete, catastrophic failure.”
Under investigation: Police are seeking the public’s assistance in trying to identify the operator. Transport Canada has been alerted to the regulation infractions — UAV and drone operators are not allowed to operate higher than 300 feet — and an investigation is ongoing.
The operator faces possible criminal charges, as well as charges under the Aeronautics Act. Griffith asked operators to “be mindful of the safety issues in operating in the vicinity of other aircraft,” as well as the risk they pose “not just to the aircraft itself, or the crew, but the citizens of Edmonton.”
Do’s and Don’ts of drones: Irresponsible UAV operators who endanger people’s safety, property or other aircraft face jail time and fines up to $25,000.
Here are some Transport Canada tips on the safe operation of drones:
• Don’t fly your UAV closer than nine kilometres to any aerodrome, higher than 300 feet or closer than 150 metres from people, animals, buildings, structures or vehicles.
• Want a cool night shot? You can’t. Transport Canada only wants you flying your drone during daylight and in good weather.
• Out of sight, out of mind? Not likely, buddy. Keep your drone in sight, where you can see it with your eyes — not just through an on-board camera, monitor or smartphone.
• You know the drill about doing unto others, right? Respect people’s privacy by avoiding flying over private property or taking photos or videos without permission.
• Canada limits and controls the use of manned and unmanned aircraft, such as drones, in national parks.