Though drones may seem straightforward, there are a few things you need to know before you can take to the skies, so we asked The Camera Store‘s Chris Niccolls to fill us in.
“We carry some tiny drones that are about $100; they’re basically just toys,” says Niccolls. “The $500 mark is where you get a GPS-controlled drone. If you want a camera attached, budget $1,600 to $2,000, and the larger, commercial drones can go anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 and up.”
The required permits
If your drone weighs less than 35 kilograms and you’re using it for recreation within lawful airspace, you don’t need a permit. If it weighs more than 35 kg, or it weighs more than 25 kg and you’ll be using it for something other than leisure, odds are you’ll need a special flight operator’s licence. The best way to check is to visit Transport Canada’s website or check out a flight school like the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems in Medicine Hat.
Where they can fly
Though you wouldn’t be able to fly a drone down 17th Avenue, there are still many places you can fly within city limits. “Private property, crown land, that kind of stuff, you’re fair game; go for it,” says Niccolls. Other restrictions include keeping nine kilometres away from airports, staying less than 90 metres from the ground and avoiding flying closer than 150 metres to people, animals, buildings or vehicles.
How long drones can fly
Though flight time varies, generally you can expect 10 to 20 minutes before the batteries need recharging. “Extra batteries are important, and remember that your flight time is going to be minimal,” says Niccolls. “Five hundred metres to a kilometre is probably the maximum range you can fly them.”
Extras to get
“The biggest thing we’ve found is you’re going to crash them a lot,” says Niccolls, who recommends getting extra propellers as well as prop guards, which keep the propellers from hitting the ground.