Rules for drone use discussed

2015 was the year of the drone for the North Island, and the communities need to work on regulating their use.

2015 was the year of the drone in the North Island, “something that we want to be on top of as a community,” said Jared Towers, North Island Marine Mammal Stewardship Association (NIMMSA) Administrator, perhaps even ensuring “some kind of community rules are in place.”

Roger McDonell, one of the owners of Stubbs Island Whale Watching, told the audience, who had gathered for a pre-season launch event at Telegraph Cove, that he took a course on drones in February. In order to use a drone for commercial purposes, “you need a special flight operator’s certificate,” McDonell said.

Failure to do so could cost a person up to $25,000 in fines and/or jail time.

McDonell explained there are also strict regulations for drone use such as not flying over 400 feet above the ground; and not over people.

“There are some very ethical and useful applications for gathering a lot of data, but they (those operators) are licensed to do so, and have permits,” said Towers.

A case in point is the killer whale Photogrammetry research being done in the area by Dr. Lance Barrett Leonard, head of the Wild Whale Research Program at the Vancouver Aquarium, and Dr. John Durban and Dr. Holly Fearnbach of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in La Jolla, California.

This team of researchers has been studying Northern and Southern resident Killer Whale populations off Vancouver Island using photogrammetry. Photogrammetry uses an Olympus E-PL2 camera mounted onto an APH-22 marine hexacopter to fly over whales to capture their image.

Durban has a permit to fly in this space. “Some countries have banned them,” Towers said, adding they sometimes crash in the ocean and their batteries are “very toxic to the environment.

“I think we can do better as a community” to regulate their use, he said.