Kneehill County council approved a new policy for controlling drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) over municipal property. The decision was made at the Feb. 8 regular meeting of council.
Shelby Sherwick, manager of parks and agricultural services, presented to councillors the proposed Policy 12-5 to set some rules out for the use of UAVs over property owned by Kneehill County. Sherwick noted in her memo to council drones are becoming more common in the county.
“In recent years there has been an increase in unauthorized recreational drone use at Kneehill County parks sites, as well as an increase in requests for permission to fly drones over Kneehill County public lands for the commercial purposes of filming and photography,” stated Sherwick in her memo.
She noted that currently Kneehill County has drones mentioned in one bylaw, the Parks and Open Spaces Bylaw, which states, “While in a park or open space area, no person shall, except in an area designated for that purpose or unless prior written approval has been obtained by the Chief Administrative Officer or designate…Set off, launch, or operate any Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, glider or hot air balloon, any rocket, missile, or any dangerous objects on, to or across a park or open space area.”
Sherwick also noted Kneehill County has substantial fines for anyone convicted of the above offences.
“The penalty for setting off, launching, or discharging any unauthorized things in a park or open space area…is $500 for first offence, $1,000 for second offence, and $2,000 for third offence,” she stated in her report.
“Currently, the Kneehill County Planning and Parks departments work together on drone permissions, fielding inquiries and confirming proof of certification.
“Having a drone policy in place will ensure consistency and further formalize this process and ensure safety and a positive visitor experience for visitors to Kneehill County owned public lands.
“Benefits of restricting drone flight on public lands: safety and privacy of visitors is protected, reduction of impacts from drones on visitor experience or natural areas, liability and risk management is addressed by ensuring that drone pilots carry appropriate licensing and insurance.”
Drone operation is regulated by Transport Canada and according to their website, “Drone pilots must carry a valid drone pilot certificate at all times while operating their drone. A valid drone pilot certificate is a printed or electronic document issued by Transport Canada. No other form of certification will be accepted.”
During discussion of the proposed policy Reeve Jerry Wittstock clarified that the policy only applies to Kneehill County public lands, which Sherwick also clarified. She noted the policy doesn’t apply to the airspace over private property, which requires the permission of the property owner.
Councillors unanimously approved the drone policy.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter