Safety

November 5, 2018

Let’s Talk Drones with Brian Guimond

For many, a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) commonly referred to as a drone is one of two types of remotely piloted aircraft – a toy or a military weapon.

Recreational drones are accessible for consumers to purchase anywhere from a local toy store to most e-commerce giants and can sometimes be seen buzzing along beaches or parks. In-between recreational or military-based uses is a rapidly growing type of RPAS purpose: commercial.

With the rise of the RPAS industry and new proposed rules for RPAS in Canada, NAV CANADA is working with aviation industry partners on how to best manage and integrate RPAS with those currently using the skies, for those wishing to take to the skies with their RPAS, and for those on the ground.

Our colleague Brian Guimond, National Manager, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, explains NAV CANADA’s role in ensuring a safe operational environment as the skies become more complex with these new technologies.

What is your role at NAV CANADA, Brian?

I joined NAV CANADA in 2006, as Manager, Military Operations, following a 35-year career in the Canadian Air Force. During my military career, I held air traffic control (ATC) positions in Canada and Germany, as well as numerous senior staff positions in ATC standards, air defence operations, procurement, and project management. When RPAS activities in Canada started to gain momentum, they were added to my list of responsibilities.

RPAS operations are now having a more significant impact on NAV CANADA units, and this is where my job is now focused.

What are RPAS commercially used for?

There is a growing multitude of commercial applications for these aircraft. Their most significant benefit is the ability to handle aerial surveillance and inspection tasks more safely, efficiently and at lower cost than previous means. Though one of the more popular commercial (and recreational!) uses of RPAS is to capture aerial photography or videography, they are also used for infrastructure inspection, crop monitoring, wildlife protection, emergency response, and law enforcement. In the aviation industry, airports and other ANSPs are using RPAS for land-surveying, and some countries are trialing a RPAS traffic management system to address the future demands of the drone package delivery industry.

“The integration of RPAS into the national airspace has introduced unique challenges for air traffic management now and going forward.”

What problems can RPAS cause in airport airspace and how does it impact Air Traffic Service Specialists?

As RPAS movements in Canada increase, we’re seeing trends of more incidents near an aerodrome.  RPAS operations that are not coordinated with air traffic service specialists can become hazards and disrupt air traffic service.  On our radar, RPAS are physically too small to be detected and tend to look the same as a bird would. They pose the biggest risk when they are near aircraft that are in critical phases of flight such as taking off and landing. During this period, RPAS are even harder to detect but can cause major damage to the aircraft’s engine and threaten the safety of pilots and passengers on the plane.

What can RPAS operators do to help reduce risks associated with their operations?

Airspace in Canada, in general, is separated into controlled and uncontrolled airspace. In both categories, Transport Canada gives approval for any commercial RPAS uses through the Special Flight Operating Certificate process.

When it comes to operating in controlled airspace, commercial RPAS operators must coordinate with, and get approval from, our air traffic service facilities regarding when and where they can fly. This helps our ATS staff assess any risks associated with the proposed operation and impose restrictions as appropriate, such as limitations on altitude, specific hours of operation, and maintaining communication.

RPAS operators can help by coordinating as far in advance of their operations as possible, particularly in areas close to airports and manned aircraft operations. They can also help by increasing their knowledge of the rules of the air and aviation practices to help them coordinate effectively with air traffic services.

How can RPAS benefit the aviation industry and what is NAV CANADA’s role?

RPAS will ultimately take on larger aviation roles such as large aircraft inspection and even the flight inspection of air navigation aids. The integration of RPAS into the national airspace has introduced unique challenges for air traffic management now and going forward. While industry growth can be exciting, it is essential that it occur in a way that does not jeopardize the safety of others, either on the ground or in the air.

One of the ways NAV CANADA is contributing is by playing an active role in the Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC) process that has been developing enhancements to the current Canadian regulatory framework governing RPAS operations. We also sit on the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems panel, working on the development of international regulatory standards and recommended practices for States.

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