Understanding Drone Guidelines using Location Data

With drone technology becoming more pervasive and accessible to the average consumer, these sophisticated un-manned flying machines are popping up everywhere. Right now there are estimated to be over 800,000 registered drone aircraft in the US, with many more unregistered. Low prices for drones of decent quality have made it possible for the average weekend photographer to capture ‘bird’s eye view’ images of cityscapes, and have benefited dads everywhere by giving them yet another tool to create video montages they can be proud to show at family holiday parties. In addition to personal uses, drones are being used more and more for complex surveying of remote locations (e.g. Aerial unmanned LIDAR), military operations, and even to deliver your favourite Amazon goodies.

However, when it comes to flying recreational drones in public places, there are some strict guidelines that operators need to follow. A comprehensive list can be found here. Some important items to note include:

  • You must fly at least 30m away from vehicles and the public,
  • Only operate your drone during daylight hours
  • Cannot fly it above 90m off the ground.

If a recreational operator does not adhere to these rules, they can be fined up to $3,000.00.

Following guidelines like the ones mentioned above may be difficult for the average consumer if they do not have access to the appropriate data. For example, what does it mean to stay at least 30m away from vehicles at all times? Below is a map showing part of downtown Toronto and Riverdale Pak East (a popular location for recreational drone operators as it has an excellent view of the skyline) with and without 30m boundaries created around the street centrelines to visualize what it might mean to stay 30m away from vehicles at all times:

Drones & Location Data

Figure 1: Map of downtown Toronto (Riverdale Park) with 30m buffer around street centrelines

The government of Canada further restricts recreational drones that weigh greater than 1kg. These must be at a minimum of 76m away from vehicles and the public. The map below shows the same area in Toronto, except with a 75m buffer around street centrelines. Clearly, this greatly limits the accessible real estate for drone operators.

Drones & Location Data

Figure 2: Map of downtown Toronto (Riverdale Park) with 76m buffer around street centrelines

Evidently, one can imagine as more and more criteria are applied to the map (e.g. drones must be flown a certain distance away from buildings, cannot be flown within several kilometers of an airport, etc.) the available area to operate drones will shrink considerably. To create accurate maps relating to drone accessibility, municipalities and governments alike can consult with location intelligence companies such as DMTI Spatial to provide the data and expertise necessary.

If you require any of the geographic data mentioned above to create your own map, feel free to contact us today.

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