N.W.T. man becomes first convicted under Criminal Code for unsafe drone use

Toufic Chamas fined $3K, sentenced to 5 days in jail

Richard Gleeson · CBC News 

A Northwest Territories judge has reluctantly accepted a plea bargain for a man who repeatedly lied to police and flew a drone in airspace used by planes taking off and landing at the Yellowknife airport.

It marks the first time somebody has been convicted under the Criminal Code of dangerous operation of an aircraft as a result of illegally flying a drone, according to RCMP.

“Even taking into account the guilty pleas … I still don’t find that any of the sentences suggested are adequate,” said Judge Bernadette Schmaltz on Thursday before fining Toufic Chamas $3,000 and sentencing him to five days in jail, which he has already served.

The fine was for illegally flying a drone. The jail time was for three convictions — obstruction, driving while disqualified and breaching bail conditions by failing to report to a probation officer.

Chamas was also banned from driving for two years and is not allowed to fly a drone for three years.

Schmaltz said though she didn’t think the sentence was enough to deter the 22-year-old from committing more offences, she had to accept it because the Supreme Court of Canada has established that sentences suggested by both the Crown and defence in plea bargains can only be rejected if the sentence would cause people to lose confidence in the justice system.

Schmaltz said the sentence “definitely should not be considered a precedent.”

Caught 3 times

Police caught Chamas flying his DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone three times in downtown Yellowknife in September 2017.

Each time, Chamas told them he was unaware it was illegal to do so.

The third time, police noticed a Transport Canada pamphlet on his coffee table, laying out the rules governing drone use. It had been left with him by police who had responded to reports of a drone flying downtown the day before.

The obstruction charge was laid in October 2017 after Chamas gave a false name to municipal enforcement officers who pulled him over. He insisted the name was his even after the RCMP was called in to help identify him.

On Aug. 2 this year, Chamas was clocked driving 150 km/hr near Fort Providence, N.W.T. The RCMP found his driver’s licence had been suspended a month earlier in Alberta for the same reason: driving while disqualified.

“Mr. Chamas’s disregard for court orders couldn’t be more blatant,” said Schmaltz.

Chamas’s legal troubles are far from over.

Yellowknife RCMP say that on Oct. 19, officers pulled him over and found a stolen handgun and ammunition in his car. He has been charged with seven firearm offences, two driving-related offences, and five counts of failing to comply with court orders. He remains in custody.

Sky’s the limit as Calgary opens testing area for drones and new technologies

By Bill Graveland

THE CANADIAN PRESS

CALGARY _ The sky’s the limit as the city of Calgary opens what it believes is the first testing area in Canada for drones, autonomous vehicles and other technologies.

The city has set aside a 50-hectare site in its industrial southeast to offer airspace for an increasing demand from companies and educational institutions wanting to do mass tryouts of commercial drones.

A downturn in the energy industry when oil prices took a free fall in 2014-15 spurred the development of geospatial sciences, said Patti Dunlop of Calgary Economic Development.

“There’s many companies that came out of the downturn that actually took their engineers, mathematicians and … transitioned into … another burgeoning technology,” she said. “Energy will always be our backbone but we are more than that.”

Geographic information systems are designed to capture, store, analyze and manage spatial or geographic data.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the Calgary testing site will be a boon to many sectors, including oil and gas, film and financial services.

“We have a part of the city that is part of the endless prairie where there are no buildings, so the concept of the living lab, here, for the first time in Canada … really allows us to help these companies grow,” he said Friday at the official opening of the testing area.

Nenshi gave an example of how new technology can be used in everyday life.

“I had my roof damaged in a hailstorm. The insurance company was able to send a drone over my roof to look at the damage without having to send someone over to climb a ladder and have a look there.”

Dunlop said a pilot project last year offering a test area within the city was so successful it led to the permanent site that opened Friday.

“From what I know, nobody else has started doing this. There’s places in the United States that have testing, but in Calgary we’re the first municipality that’s allowing this type of testing to happen.”

There are requirements companies have to meet to use the test centre. They include licensing fees, proof of $2 million in corporate liability insurance and a special flight operations certificate for drone technology.

Upcoming drone regulations & soaring use provide opportunities & challenges

New Transport Canada rules are around the corner, but will they go far enough to protect privacy?

By David Bell, CBC News

As the popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, continues to soar, two experts weigh in on what could be coming in terms of regulation, safety and privacy.

Sterling Cripps is the founder and president of Canadian Unmanned Incorporated, a Medicine Hat-based UAV training operation. He says one of the big challenges moving forward is stressing the importance of safety and regulatory compliance.

“To fly in a busy downtown area, such as Calgary, you are in Class C airspace from the ground up to 3,000 feet right out to past Springbank. In order to fly legally in this airspace, you have to have permission from Transport Canada and be on a Nav Canada operators list so that you can fly safely. In order to get that, you have to have a special flight operating certificate from Transport Canada, which also includes insurance and procedures for mitigating risks. How would you deal with a fly away or a crash or something like that? That’s the challenge that we have, is making sure the operators are educated and trained in dealing with emergencies in this realm.”

Cripps has spent the last year training about 500 users across the country. He says the applications for UAVs have expanded a lot in recent years.

“I have worked with all three levels of government — federal, provincial and civic — in terms of their environmental applications, transportation, law enforcement, forestry. But I have also worked with mining companies, individual forest companies, pulp and paper, construction, Aboriginal and Indigenous groups as well, that are looking after land management. Where I am seeing the rubber really hit the road, is the engineering and the survey groups,” he said.

“These drones make excellent tools for them to create their craft and capture the data they can get from a different type of angle using a drone.”

News rules being considered

But as Transport Canada considers new rules for drones, privacy should be a consideration alongside safety, a specialized lawyer says.

“Unfortunately, for recreational drone users there isn’t a requirement that they register their drone or the flight path,” says Laura Emmett of London, Ont.-based Lerners Lawyers.

Emmett advises clients on drone-related issues.

“It does present some difficulties in terms of identifying who is operating the drone. The rules right now for Transport Canada, for recreational drones, require that the name, address and telephone number of the drone user are marked on the drone.”

But without binoculars or a long camera lens, reading that information could be difficult. Residents who see drones flying over their property and have privacy concerns, she adds, could contact police directly.

Emmett says there is a requirement to obtain a special flight operation certificate if the drone is used commercially or if it weighs more than 35 kilograms.

“There are proposed new regulations that Transport Canada has released. They haven’t come into force yet. The consultation period ended at the end of October. So I expect we will be seeing new rules shortly.”

Commercial drones capture the attention of insurance industry

Commercial drones capture the attention of insurance industry

Intact Financial Corp. is the latest to attempt to tap the market for insuring drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which aren’t typically covered under a commercial insurance policy. Canada’s largest property and casualty insurer says the demand from its small and medium-sized business clients is increasing as more of them use drones as part of regular operations, particularly for surveillance in sectors such as farming.

“All of a sudden, they start – rather than walking the fields – using drones to take pictures and see if there are issues,” said Alain Lessard, senior vice-president of commercial lines at Intact. And that comes with potential hazards. “A person could be sued because the drone hit someone.”

While the commercial use of drones is still getting off the ground, it’s a key segment of a global market that is expected to grow to $11.5-billion (U.S.) by 2024, according to Teal Group, an aerospace market analysis firm.

The rise of UAV insurance comes as a wave of new technologies reshapes insurers’ businesses, creating new areas of coverage and ways of connecting with customers. Insurers now have teams dedicated to cyber threats, and some have begun to cover emerging businesses such as ride-sharing. The potential for “disruption” by agile tech companies tapped into changing consumer behaviour is also an ever-present concern, pushing Intact and some competitors to boost their branding and leadership in the digital space.

When it came to drones, Intact found a disconnect between old coverage and new technology.

“As part of our commercial lines policy, [drones] would usually fall into an aircraft definition. All aircraft are usually excluded from our regular policy,” Mr. Lessard said. That was pushing some clients to specialty insurers in the aviation space, even for 2 1/2-kilogram drones. Intact decided it could accommodate these machines alongside its customers’ commercial lines policy.

Rules for operating a UAV for commercial purposes have been clarified by Transport Canada over the past two years and are more lenient than in the United States. But even if businesses meet the exemption criteria and avoid a special flight operations certificate, most still need to have proper liability insurance coverage.

Most drones fall between those used for large military applications and the Frisbee-sized copters flown by hobbyists. These worker drones carry cameras that can collect data and help companies monitor operations and environmental impact faster – and in some cases more safely – than sending a human.

Cenovus Energy Inc. has been testing UAVs since 2013, and has now flown them more than 60,000 kilometres.

The company hopes to monitor pipelines by drone some day. “To be able to do that, we are waiting for Transport Canada to introduce regulations that would allow us to fly our UAVs beyond the line of sight,” Cenovus said in a statement. In the meantime, its three drones are busy mapping out oil sands sites in northern Alberta.

Companies often start with one low-cost drone or work with a third-party provider to prove return on investment, said Andrea Sangster, spokeswoman for UAV maker Aeryon Labs Inc. in Waterloo, Ont.

“We’re seeing growth in the commercial markets with oil and gas and the utilities, as well as cell tower inspection,” Ms. Sangster said. The company’s drones have been used for diverse applications, such as counting salmon swimming upstream, 3D modelling and taking readings of office buildings’ thermal output.

At just a few thousand dollars for some basic drones, companies can get into the game cheaply. Aeryon’s higher-end drones, which can weather cold temperatures and high winds, are priced from $60,000.

Annual revenue from sales of commercial-use drones is projected to soar by 84 per cent this year up to about $481-million, according to a recent international report by Juniper Research.

Mr. Lessard said most operators essentially need the same kind of insurance against physical damage to people or property. Limitations to coverage include using the drone to “take pictures of someone through the window of a hotel or something like that, and that person is being sued,” Mr. Lessard said. “We’re not covering these kind of things.”

When Zurich Canada began offering coverage last year, it excluded noise pollution issues caused by drones, which can sound like swarming bees, as well as sabotage.

Drone Insurance INTACT INSURANCE

Drones are becoming an increasingly common feature of business. If your company uses a small drone for surveying purposes, aerial photography, inspection, farming or any other commercial activity, talk to a broker about our insurance coverage for drones.

Our commercial drone insurance includes damage to and loss of the drone, ground station equipment, drone-mounted devices such as cameras, and spare parts. Our commercial drone product helps meet the evolving and future needs of your business.

Certain conditions, limitations and exclusions apply to all offers. The information that appears on this website is provided to you for information purposes only. Your insurance contract prevails at all times. Please consult it for a complete description of coverage and exclusions.

www.intact.ca

Intact Insurance has launched drone insurance for its commercial lines customers

As part of its ongoing commitment to product innovation, Intact Insurance has launched drone insurance for its commercial lines customers.

This Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) coverage is a leading insurance product in the market that caters specifically to small and medium-sized businesses that currently use or plan to use drones to complement their business operations.

“The number of businesses using drones is increasing due to improving technology, lower price points, and expanded uses within commercial operations,” said Alain Lessard, Senior Vice-President, Commercial Lines for Intact Insurance.  “Broker feedback and survey insights identified a growing customer demand and gap in non-specialty markets for this type of coverage.  We are confident this product will help address current and future market demand.”

UAV coverage is the latest addition to the company’s line of leading-edge products and services that provide unique solutions which add value to businesses and brokers. Other recent innovative commercial initiatives launched include its cyber endorsement, which protects businesses against cyber risks and myFleet Solution, a unique fleet-management insurance solution for businesses with fleets.

Commercial businesses interested in adding drone insurance to their coverage should speak to their broker about the options available to them.

About Intact Insurance and Intact Financial Corporation
Intact Insurance is Canada’s largest home, auto and business insurance company, the choice of more than four million consumers. Its coast-to-coast presence and its strong relationship with insurance brokers mean the company can provide the outstanding service, comfort and continuity customers deserve. Intact Insurance (www.intact.ca) is a member company of Intact Financial Corporation (TSX: IFC), the largest provider of property and casualty insurance in Canada (www.intactfc.com).

SOURCE Intact Insurance

For further information: Media Inquiries: Stephanie Sorensen, Director, External Communications, +1 (416) 344-8027, stephanie.sorensen@intact.net; Investor Inquiries: Samantha Cheung, Vice President, Investor Relations, +1 (416) 344-8004, samantha.cheung@intact.net

How to Wrap That Toy Drone Christmas Gift in an Insurance Policy

How to Wrap That Toy Drone Christmas Gift in an Insurance Policy

Your kid just got a drone. Should you get insurance?

The next wave of hobby drones will be wrapped in boxes underneath Christmas trees before they fill the skies. If industry sales projections come true, the holiday season will put tens of thousands of relative novices at the controls of small unmanned aerial vehicles in densely populated cities and suburbs. All that amateurish swooping over houses and cars, spooking pets and dodging humans, will invariably lead to cracked windows and more than a few bloody injuries.

“Almost no one is thinking about insurance coverage when they’re opening the box,” says Jeff Antonelli, a Chicago attorney who specializes in U.S. federal regulations for unmanned aerial systems. The liability protection in homeowners or renters insurance policies will sometimes cover damage or injury from a drone crashing into a neighbour’s house, vehicle or child. Yet this coverage isn’t universal, Mr. Antonelli says, and some policies specifically carry an aviation exclusion that encompasses recreational drones, which the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration classifies as small aircraft.

There’s little doubt that 2015 marks a vast expansion in hobby drone ownership. The Consumer Technology Association calls this “a defining year” for small drones, projecting total U.S. sales of 700,000 units in what would mark a 63-per-cent increase from 2014. The wide range of drone models available this Christmas – from the $40 (U.S.) Protocol Neo-Drone Mini to a $3,000, seven-kilogram DJI T6000 with a sophisticated 4K video camera – means there’s now a model on the market to fit almost any budget.

Best Buy, which does a brisk business in recreational drones, has posted safety brochures in more than 1,000 stores in the hope of breeding safer rookie pilots. Shoppers bringing home a drone for the holidays can also purchase from Best Buy a one-year membership in the Academy of Model Aeronautics, an Indiana-based organization for model aircraft enthusiasts, to take advantage of group liability coverage. Another major drone retailer, Amazon.com, also posts links to a “Know Before You Fly” educational website established by drone manufacturers to promote safe flying.

Most of the affordable recreational drones are small and weigh less than a kilogram – less a hazard to a window than the average errant football toss. Even so, a rash of drone accidents and injuries could lead to stiff regulations that might squelch the industry’s growth. And there have already been a scattering of high-profile examples, including an onstage concert mishap this year in which a lightweight drone turned pop star Enrique Iglesias’s hand into a bloody mess.

One of the only insurance policies designed to cover hobbyist drone pilots comes from membership in the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which charges adults $75 a year. All the group’s 185,000 members enjoy $2.5-million in personal liability coverage from Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance, part of ACE Group, and $25,000 medical coverage.

“Most of the claims we have are small claims,” says Rich Hanson, the AMA’s director of government relations. The most common case involves an out-of-control drone flying into a car. The AMA declined to reveal how many claims on average are filed a year.

Homeowner policies at Allstate, one of the largest property insurers, will cover damage if a policy holder crashes a drone and damages someone else’s property. But a “first-party claim” – damage you do to your own home – isn’t covered, says Allstate spokesman Justin Herndon. The insurer sees a drone-mishap situation as akin to having your pet lion maul a neighbor’s furniture; Allstate would cover the big cat’s destruction of your neighbor’s stuff, but not your own.

A spokesman for State Farm says that its homeowner policies would generally cover a drone accident like any other mishap. “Damages from drones pose nothing new in this regard,” says State Farm spokesman Chris Pilcic.

Beyond insurers, regulators also are preparing for how to manage increased drone flying. Starting on Dec. 21, just ahead of the Christmas holiday, U.S. owners of small drones must register the machines with the federal government so that authorities will be able to more easily investigate crashes and illegal flights. Only the smallest toy drones weighing less than 250 grams will be exempt from the registry.

“Things can happen, and this isn’t bulletproof technology,” says Mr. Hanson of the Academy of Model Aeronautics. As drone registration increases, he and other observers predict that some states will require recreational drone operators to carry insurance coverage, much like mandatory insurance for motorists.

The current situation is “a balancing act between insurance and regulation,” says Matthew Henshon, a Boston attorney whose practice covers emerging technologies. States and cities are beginning to address some of the regulatory issues that accompany drone flying, and he predicts that any surge in property damage or injuries will cause politicians to react quickly.

“If bad things are happening, someone is going to figure it out and step in from a regulatory standpoint,” Mr. Henshon says. “If enough damage is being done, someone is going to call their congressman.”

Someone might also call a personal-injury lawyer.

Michael Brevda, who spends most of his time pursuing nursing home neglect cases, has registered the website droneinjurieslawyer.com as a way to hang out a shingle for people wounded in a drone mishap. Mr. Brevda, an attorney at Domnick Law in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., has so far settled one drone-related case for a small amount and sees the drone side of his business as still in its infancy.

Even if the skies are abuzz with drones, don’t look for the kind of rampant personal-injury legal pitches that accompany auto accidents and medical malpractice, staples of television, radio, and billboard advertising. Most amateur drone enthusiasts won’t have the kind of financial resources that make civil litigation worthwhile. The issue of a deep pocket is also one reason major commercial operators – be it Amazon, real estate agents, surveying companies, motion picture studios, or aerial photography firms – are likely to carry far more insurance and face greater regulation of their activities.

But the lawsuits probably won’t have to wait for corporate drone disasters. Mr. Hanson and other attorneys predict that invasion of privacy claims against commercial drone operators – not personal-injury torts – will likely spur most legal work.

Source: The Globe and Mail

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