My name is Captain Dan Adamus. I'm the president of the Air Line Pilots Association International's Canada board. I am an airline pilot, and I have been for 34 years.
The Air Line Pilots Association International represents just over 54,000 pilots who fly for 31 Canadian and U.S. airlines. We are also the largest non-governmental safety and security agency in the world.
We appreciate the opportunity to provide our perspective on the critical importance of safely integrating unmanned air vehicles, UAVs—or, as I will refer to them today, unmanned aircraft systems, UAS—into the Canadian national airspace system, the NAS.
I think you see a bit of a theme here. There are lots of acronyms in aviation, and I'll refer to some of these acronyms in my notes today.
The airspace in North America is the most dynamic and diverse such system in the world. ALPA fully supports the safe integration of UAS operations into the NAS. This is not a new issue, and our support for the future of UAS in the NAS as well as our perspective on the issues associated with safe integration are reflected in this statement.
The safety of the NAS must be maintained to deliver the safest and most efficient air transportation services in the world. Although the focus today is the Canadian NAS, we must point out that the safety issues highlighted are independent of any national airspace boundary and are faced by ALPA's pilots as we operate around the globe.
In August 2015, the FAA published a list of pilot reports of UAS encounters. ALPA reviewed the 764 events, which cover only the period from November 2014 through August 2015. Canada has also seen a rapid rise in reported occurrences of UAS, with a tenfold increase in drone encounters year over year. Both the volume of events and many of the event descriptions are sobering reminders to the industry that the risk of a collision between a UAS and an aircraft has increased significantly. ALPA believes that a significant step toward the eventual solution to safely integrating UAS into the NAS includes four fundamental elements.
The first is education. Anyone who plans to fly UAS must understand the aircraft, the airspace, and the other aircraft that could be encountered while flying. In the case of UAS that might be commercially flown for compensation or hire, the pilot must hold a commercial pilot certificate to ensure that he or she possesses the appropriate skill and experience to meet safety standards designed to protect the flying public. Those flying UAS for recreational purposes must adhere to the guidelines, keeping the UAS within line of sight, at heights under 90 metres, and at least nine kilometres from airports. ALPA urges Parliament to provide definitive authority and remove any ambiguity about the extent to which Transport Canada has the authority to regulate UAS operated for recreation, modelling, and hobby purposes.
Based on what Transport Canada has documented to date, the ongoing educational efforts under way by Transport Canada and the recreational UAS segment of the industry are still inadequate.
With the holiday season on the horizon, UAS operations will likely increase. ALPA recommends that Transport Canada expand their outreach initiative, encouraging manufacturers, businesses, and volunteer organizations with a vested interest in safe UAS operations to aggressively promote safe UAS operations, which include avoiding encounters with airline aircraft.
The second element is registration. ALPA endorsed the FAA's rapid implementation of a UAS registration requirement for all but the smallest aircraft. Gathering basic information about the identity of the individual purchasing the UAS not only allows law enforcement authorities to identify the owner if the UAS were to encounter a problem, but it helps make clear the serious nature of operating a UAS in the NAS and the responsibility to safeguard public safety. ALPA encourages Transport Canada to implement a registration system as soon as possible. Additionally, ALPA recommends that Transport Canada implement registration of UAS at the point of sale. This method will ensure the greatest possible compliance with the registration requirements.
The third element is technology. If UAS are operated either intentionally or unintentionally in airspace that aircraft use, pilots need to be able to see them on the cockpit displays, controllers need the ability to see them on their radar scopes, and the UAS must be equipped with active technologies that ensure that the UAS is capable of avoiding collision with manned aircraft.
In these types of operations, technology must enable the pilots to control and interact with them in the same manner as if the pilots were on board. If a UAS is restricted by regulations from operating in a particular geographic area and/or altitude, it must have technology that cannot be overridden that limits the geographic areas and altitude in which it can operate. This may include permanent locations, such as Parliament and all public airports, as well as temporary restrictions, such as for wildfires or natural disaster areas.
Transport Canada should expand its ongoing evaluation of technologies that are capable of identifying UAS and operator locations. Transport Canada should ensure that resources are available for the development of UAS-centric collision avoidance technologies, with standards in place for their adoption as soon as possible.
Number four is penalties and enforcement. UAS pilots must be properly trained and must understand the consequences of possible malfunctions. Anyone flying a UAS that is a hazard to other aircraft in the airspace, especially anyone who chooses to do so recklessly near airports, must be identified and appropriately prosecuted. We support the criminalization of intentionally unsafe operation of UAS and penalties for unintentional unsafe UAS operations.
If Transport Canada intends to rely on first responders to ensure UAS regulatory compliance, it should better inform local, regional, state, and national law enforcement officials. Providing law enforcement officials with information that defines unlawful operations, provides peer-to-peer contact information, and clarifies the regulatory authority, as well as other pertinent information, is critical for an effective use of first responders to ensure UAS regulatory compliance.
In closing, ALPA supports the ongoing efforts to safely integrate UAS into the North American airspace system. We realize that UAS create many opportunities to benefit society. However, the integration needs to be done in a way that ensures that aviation safety is not compromised and that the target level of safety for commercial air travel in the NAS is proactively, not reactively, protected.
We are fully aware that there is a strong desire by UAS proponents and those who wish to become UAS operators to begin flying in the NAS as quickly as possible. Clearly, there are commercial, social, business, and international competitive advantages to a strong UAS industry. However, government and industry must take a longer view of this present state of technology to ensure that robust safety systems, in tandem with Transport Canada-certified redundant systems of UAS, are developed that completely integrate with commercial airline operations and, above all, do so safely. An imprudent rush to create and implement minimum standards will not only harm safety, but potentially produce a setback for the future expansion of UAS operations for years to come.
On behalf of the 54,000 airline pilots whose top priority is safe transportation, we thank the committee for the opportunity to appear before you today, and we look forward to working together to ensure the safety of our air transportation system.
Thank you for the opportunity.
The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, or COPA, represents general aviation in the country. It has 17,000 members across the country. It's not the organization of the airlines or of the scheduled air transportation system, but anything other than that. It is general aviation. That's who we represent. It's the smaller aircraft. It could be business or it could be outfitters up north or in different places. It's the general aviation portion of what's happening in the transportation system in Canada.
We're also part of the 75-member International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations around the world. We have a seat at the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO, representing general aviation, so we have someone in Montreal in this context.
We have done some representation at ICAO already concerning general aviation and what we feel about what are called remotely piloted aircraft, or RPAs, or UAVs, or UAS, as they take all these different acronyms. We've done some lobbying with ICAO already, saying that there are some items we're really pushing for. We have four of these items.
One is that we should be able to share the sky without added equipage in our aircraft in the present fleet. In other words, manned aircraft should not have to get some new stuff on board to avoid and to be able to fly with the RPAs or the UAVs.
Another one is that we shouldn't have any NOTAM, which is a notice to airmen. It's sort of a memo out there. We shouldn't have any NOTAMed airspace. Doing so signifies that general aviation and UAVs together are a danger. A NOTAM is a notice for something specific happening. If the airspace is NOTAMed, saying we should watch out, that there's a UAV there, there are going to be NOTAMs all over the country. We couldn't live with this. There has to be no specific NOTAM.
No additional airspace should be set aside in the country for UAVs, except obviously for training and testing purpose, such as the one in Alberta right now. I know there's one in Alma, near Lac Saint-Jean, in Quebec. There are some areas, but there should be no additional airspace set aside for that. We have to cohabit.
Obviously UAVs and RPAs are getting big. In a few years they may be even more numerous than aircraft themselves. We will have to share the skies.
Also, we put the onus and the responsibility to detect and avoid—or sense and avoid, as we may call it—on the RPAs. We have eyeball one and two to see outside, and we have onboard systems in the aircraft with which we can see, with collision avoidance systems of some type. However, the RPAs or UAVs themselves have to be able to detect and avoid.
Those are the four points that we have given to ICAO.
COPA has already responded to a notice of proposed amendment for UAVs that Transport Canada put out last year, in 2015. We do have a few proposals. My colleague mentioned a few that were put out by ALPA. We also put out a few. Obviously we agree on many of them.
One is that we should link all the UAVs out there to someone through a registration. It cannot be anonymous. Whoever has one, whether it's a small toy or a bigger one, should be linked to it. It should be registered.
Education is also an important part. Everyone has to be educated on what they can do with their UAV or RPA. We're also asking that there be no sales out there without a proof-of-competency card. We're asking that the Best Buys and the Future Shops of the world do not sell any of them without one. Even over the counter, there should be a competency proof. Someone has to show that they know what the rules are. We will be living together in that world.
Right now, we feel at COPA that there's a lack of information out there. Even with over-the-counter sales, we've tested a few, and people say, “No, just go on the Transport website.” That's not enough. I even have a magazine here saying that you should be looking at the Transport website, but it doesn't say more than that. There's a lack of information out there.
Right now, we have to see the UAV. Obviously before we move to going beyond the visual line of sight, the technology will have to be foolproof. We're asking for that, and we agree with ALPA on that.
Thank you very much for your very kind invitation to appear before this committee on what I think is a very important topic.
For some background, I'm a lawyer, a partner with McInnes Cooper here in Halifax. My practice focuses entirely on privacy and technology law, with 15 years of experience in dealing with disruptive new technologies.
I have had the opportunity to provide advice to UAV operators and legal advice to companies that look to use UAVs in their operations, but I need to be clear that this morning I'm speaking in my own personal capacity—not on behalf of my firm, not on behalf of its clients, not on behalf of any associations.
Perhaps what informs my view the most is that I am a recreational UAV operator and have been for more than a year now. My interest stems not from the aviation side but from being an avid amateur photographer and videographer. We live in a beautiful country, and it's even more amazingly beautiful when viewed from the air.
I had a photography teacher who told me that 99% of photographs are taken from eye level and suggested going up or going down to get a different perspective. I can tell you, and I'm sure the pilots in the room can tell you, that from 100 or 200 feet, this is an absolutely amazing country, and I enjoy recording it from that perspective.
For these remarks, then, I'm mostly talking from the perspective of a recreational user whose UAV weighs under two kilograms. It's a very small UAV.
I don't think there's any doubt that UAVs are a disruptive new technology spawning an entire new industry that is creating a whole host of new opportunities, both industrial and economic. I'm sure you'll hear from industry experts about the amazing work that UAVs enable, particularly in industries such as agriculture, in areas of forestry, in areas related to transportation of goods, etc.
I hope you'll also hear from some of the many small operators I've heard a lot from, people who have spent the last number of years putting together businesses based on this technology and who have a bit of unease about the next couple of years ahead from the regulatory standpoint. As often happens, this new disruptive technology has been accompanied by something that's often characterized as a bit of a technopanic.
As a privacy lawyer, I hear about privacy concerns all the time. Most of these concerns are actually misplaced, since most of the drones or UAVs that you find in the airspace have wide-angle lenses and aren't useful for surveillance.
There's also, of course, been a lot of concern and discussion about safety. In any time of technopanic, I often espouse taking a step back to take a deep breath and try to deal with facts rather than feelings and fears.
If you do a search in news sites for “drone” and “collision” or “near miss”, you'll see an example of what I perceive to be a level of technopanic. Many of the reports—and I've seen many of them registered in the Canadian airspace—don't bear a whole lot of scrutiny, at least in terms of the sort of UAV drone technology that one is concerned about being sold at Best Buy or appearing under Christmas trees.
The most recent incident is an interesting case in point. It occurred off the Toronto Islands airport and is currently being investigated. The encounter occurred at 9,000 feet over Lake Ontario near the U.S. border. That border is 28 kilometres from the airport and in fact 28 kilometres from land. That's simply beyond the capability of a drone that anybody would purchase at Best Buy. Unless the operator was in a boat, it simply would have been beyond the range and capabilities of most UAVs. Initial reports simply said it was an unidentified object, which could have been a floating bag or something else like that, but the media ran with using the exciting word “drone” in all the headlines, and that's what grabs the attention.
I'm of the view that any approach to regulating drones should prioritize the encouragement of growth and development of this industry in Canada—this industry is here, and it's here to stay—and also, of course, focus on mitigating risks in a realistic way.
If you want a good model to follow, I think we should adopt the very same system as in the U.S. It is very simple. This new approach for drones under 55 pounds is straightforward and much simpler than the proposed Transport Canada regulations. The aircraft has to be marked with a registration number; I can advocate for that. It must make no flights higher than 400 feet, and I can get on board with that. All of it has to be, of course, within visual line of sight, and flights within controlled airspace have to be done with notice to the relevant air traffic control. They've actually implemented a relatively simple system to give that notice.
We should be following this lead; otherwise the U.S. and Europe will dominate this industry, and Canadians will be left behind.
We already have a sensible approach to regulating the use of our waterways. I'm a pleasure craft operator with a small boat that I enjoy using along the harbours and coastlines of beautiful Nova Scotia. In order to operate my boat, I needed to have passed a test and obtained a pleasure craft operator card. The test covered the rules of the road, the international collision regulations, safety rules, and how to operate safely. I also had to register my boat and put its register number on the hull, and I have insurance.
Pleasure crafts coexist with working boats in a lot of ways, and I think UAVs can coexist, and will have to, with existing users of the skies in the same way.
I do also advocate for one of the provisions that I believe Transport Canada is going along with. Those who use model aircraft or small drones within the auspices of a recognized association, under their safety rules and with the benefit of their insurance, should be able to operate within that sphere rather than in a more complicated regulatory environment. However, if you take it outside of that strip, then of course all the rules come to bear.
We need to be sensible, proportional, and consistent in the manner in which UAV activities are regulated, and it needs to have a nuanced view of all the risks involved.
We also have to be mindful—this was alluded to in some ways by the previous speakers—that the technology is moving very quickly in this area. Within five years, I expect that we will have very good sense-and-avoid technologies. We'll have very good fail-safes on these devices and we'll likely have relatively inexpensive transponders that will be able to alert air traffic control and other users of the airspace of the presence of UAV activities, which will enable smarter, intelligent, sense-and-avoid capabilities.
We already have laws related to privacy, trespass, nuisance, and other things like that, so I'm not sure we necessarily need to be coming up with new laws related to any particular technology. Those laws of general application work.
If you regulate from the point of view of technopanic, we would be doing Canada a disservice and baking in regressive rules that will be hard to fix in the future.
I do believe that we should follow the four points that were advocated that relate directly to what the FAA is doing in the United States with a very sensible, straightforward approach. If you're out of the ambit of the 55-pound rule or if you want to go above 400 feet, then you'd be subject to a much more stringent regulatory structure because, obviously, that introduces a different degree of risk.
I very much look forward to this discussion and speaking with you further about this.
I really like the term “technopanic” that Mr. Fraser used. In recent years, whenever a new technology or application has reached as many people as possible, we have actually witnessed a technopanic.
In the case of drones, I believe there is legitimate concern when it comes to the safety of airline passengers or small aircraft users. We are in fact seeing more and more drones.
Mr. Gervais, I was a little surprised that you’re asking Best Buy stores not to sell drones to people who don’t have a certificate or a licence.
We are just starting our study on drones, and I expect we will be learning a lot about this in the coming weeks.
The last time I walked into a Best Buy store, I saw drones the size of my coffee mug, but also bigger ones. Mr. Fraser uses drones to do photography at 200 or 300 feet altitude.
Of the drones being used right now, which are the most threatening for the airline industry?
The question is first for Mr. Gervais and then for Mr. Adamus.
The 764 reported incidents are reports from aircraft to the air traffic controller that a drone is in their sight. It doesn't necessarily mean there's a risk of collision, but they're close enough that they can see them. Whenever it's close enough to see, that's a significant event.
For example, when aircraft are flying above each other, there has to be a 1,000-foot separation, or three nautical miles horizontally, so you have to be a long way apart. If you can see a drone, that's a significant event. That would be categorized as a near miss with another aircraft.
As an example that I was involved in, I was getting ready to depart out of, I believe, Atlanta. The aircraft in front of me, just as it was climbing out through a couple of hundred feet, reported a drone, and they actually had to turn to avoid it. When we were given takeoff clearance, we were given a turn right away to avoid it. That's the closest I've come to a drone, and I didn't see it.
The incident that was reported over Lake Ontario last week or the week before—again, we don't know what it was—would be the most severe type of case, where pilots have to take drastic action to avoid hitting a drone. We all know what birds can do to aircraft. We are all very familiar with the Hudson River incident. A drone is a lot more dense. If it's ingested into an engine, it's likely to take out the engine. If it hits a control surface, control of the aircraft could be in jeopardy. If it hits the windscreen, it could crack the windscreen. There's a lot of damage these drones can do to aircraft.
Thank you for the question.
In my own experience, I generally do landscape photography, so I'm not looking in anybody's backyard. Certainly when it comes to these sorts of questions, I think we have to ask, do we need additional rules? Is it justified?
You can currently get very high-resolution satellite images of every single square foot or square metre of Canada. Already, if I was curious about whether you had a pool or a hot tub in your backyard, I could publicly go and buy that information. Does the fact of using a different technology change that dramatically?
One thing that I am mindful of is that most of the drones that are out there.... You often hear about what will be under the Christmas tree. There are going to be millions of them under Christmas trees this Christmas. Most of them have wide-angle lenses, and they are intended for landscape—to take in the vista, the amazing view that you have from up there. In most cases, you are not actually close enough. I've flown near people. I've obviously flown near myself, and when you get up to a certain level, I am unrecognizable.
Privacy law is about personal information, identifiable individuals. Most drones or UAVs that you find in Consumer Reports for recreational purposes really don't have all that big an impact on privacy. It's more a perception than a reality.
However, I've certainly heard from people who feel that having a drone fly over their neighbourhood or their house is, in and of itself, an intrusion. I'm not sure there is a whole lot more that could be said about that.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
My thanks to the witnesses for their participation today.
At first glance, I wondered whether this matter was really an emergency, but the more I listen to you, the more I realize its importance.
We have talked a lot about air traffic safety. We are also talking about the protection of privacy. I was the mayor of a municipality with 45,000 people. Our discussions have reminded me of a situation in which I had to deal with the city's lawyers. A resident who had security cameras also used them to photograph his neighbour when she was sitting around her swimming pool in a bathing suit. We had to handle that situation.
I clearly remember the clerk of the municipality telling us about the problems that would come with drones and cameras, and the challenge of determining who would assume the responsibility. The people turn to municipalities, but these issues fall under federal jurisdiction.
Many issues will have to be addressed. For instance, we have not really talked about security issues involving terrorists and their potential use of drones. I have not seen the list with all the witnesses who will be appearing, but I suppose we'll be talking to other witnesses.
In navigation, training is provided for water craft used in leisure activities. Every person who wants to drive a motor boat must first fill out a questionnaire on the Internet. Although I have never done so, I imagine that the idea is to educate those people through the various questions and provide them with information so that they can better understand the issues. Naturally, someone might impersonate another person and pass the test, but given the way it's done, we can assume that the majority of people are following this process.
In your opinion, should all drone users be required to undergo that type of training?