Vancouver officials working on policy to manage UAV, drone issues that are arising on a “day to day basis”

Despite claims by some Vancouver unmanned aerial vehicle operators that everything is fine, City Manager Penny Ballem says her staff are dealing with new issues raised by the drones on a “day to day basis.”

That was her answer in council yesterday when I asked what steps the city is taking the wake of a troubling incident during a film shoot and a drone sighting near a YVR runway.

The reality is that UAVs or drones are practically unregulated in the hands of non-commercial operators, despite lengthy Transport Canada procedures that apply to commercial operations. But it’s not clear how much Transport Canada enforces its complex rules even for the commercial operators.

The proliferation of UAV technology, for industries as diverse as film, agriculture and real estate, is putting tremendous pressure on municipal officials who have to protect public safety and privacy in airspace all over the city.

Ballem said an interdisciplinary staff group is working on the issue as a result of the film shoot incident, but “we don’t yet have a policy. Every time we turn it over, we find new discussions we have to consider. There are issues of safety, security, the float plane terminal . . .

“There is no coherent strategy from federal departments.”

Given the dramatic expansion of the sector, Transport Canada will have to act, and soon.