WINNIPEG – New rules are now in place for recreational drone users in Canada.
You can face up to a $3,000 fine if you’re caught flying a drone higher than 90 metres, within 75 metres of buildings, and more than 500 metres away from the user, among other rules.
That means you can’t do much with a recreational drone inside the city, but one spot where you can find drones is inside Elmwood High School.
The Drone Club meets every Tuesday and Thursday after school. It’s not a big club: just two students along with Matt Johnson, a first year teacher at the school with a passion for drones.
“I’m very interested in drones. They’re a very neat, niche industry that is building steam,” Johnson explains. “I figured that there would be some interest so I got this club going. It’s not just talking about drones, there’s a ground school course that the kids are going through, and when they’re done, they’re going to be certified UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] pilots.”
Matt has two drones with him in his second floor classroom: one is worth $10,000 and the other, $24,000 or roughly four times what his car is worth. Johnson has his own company that takes infrared images of farmers fields to help figure out which crops are healthy and which are dying.
One thing you may not know about commercial drone use is just how much planning goes into any single flight.
“It can take from 2-5 days to get clearance. Sometimes you have to file a notice 24 hours before your operation, sometimes you have to call the Nav Canada control centre and let them know 15 minutes before and after your operations that you are done. Ask the kids in the drone club here what one of the most important factors is, it’s the planning of your missions.”
Jayden and Clint are the two high schoolers that come after class. Both come armed with questions and a desire to learn.
“I saw it as more than a toy, that there’s actual benefits to drones,” Jayden says. “Never really learned about meteorology before, this is the first time. I’ve also learned about different kinds of imaging processes. I didn’t realize you could help save farmers money.”
Jayden admits that he has tried to get his friends to come to the club but has so far been unsuccessful.
“You know teenagers, they think it’s just a toy, a boring class. But once you actually join, it’s a whole new level of experience. To be honest, it’s not what I thought it would be, but I’ve had a lot of fun.”
Johnson did get permission from Nav Canada to fly over the school to show the students what the drones can do. The students have yet to fly themselves, but once they get their licence at the end of the school year, they will get their shot, and are excited to put their hours of learning to practical use.