Drone industry balks at government red tape

Trevor Bergmann of AeroVision Canada launches the DJI Inspire 1 Pro on day one of a rapid response mission to Ecuador following the massive earthquake in April. (AERVISON CANADA)

Trevor Bergmann of AeroVision Canada launches the DJI Inspire 1 Pro on day one of a rapid response mission to Ecuador following the massive earthquake in April. (AERVISON CANADA)

JAMES RISDON

Transport Canada is dragging its heels with excessive red tape and costing the country’s drone surveillance and mapping industry big bucks in lost revenues, say industry insiders.

“We’re getting behind the eight ball,” Mark Aruja, chairman of the Canadian drone industry organization Unmanned Systems Canada, said in an interview Tuesday. “People’s money is tied up in this and so are their business plans.”

Until about 18 months ago, Canada was considered to be a leader in the international drone surveillance and mapping community, with a framework for flying these unmanned aircraft short distances.

But then, the industry shifted.

In the United States, commercial drone company Precisionhawk got the nod from the Federal Aviation Administration in July to fly commercial drones farther, beyond the operator’s line of sight.

With that approval, a commercial drone operator can more cost-effectively and efficiently do such things as survey pipelines, transmission line corridors, farm operations and map coastlines.

It’s widely touted in the industry as the next step for commercial drone operators looking to land big contracts.

“The Holy Grail is beyond-line-of-sight approval,” said Aruja. “That’s where the opportunities are.”

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