You’re at the beach on a gorgeous fall day, resting against on a log and looking out at a shimmering lake. You’re savouring the still, quiet serenity of autumn in the park.
Suddenly, you hear what sounds like a swarm of bees headed in your direction. But it isn’t bug season. Then you see it.
Hovering just a few feet above your head is a drone, buzzing at you like some sort of Jurassic mosquito, begging to be swatted. Then it jets off down the beach, back to its owner, a grown man giggling like toddler on Christmas morning.
This is what happened to me, again and again, as I tried to have a relaxing few moments last weekend at Lost Lake Park in Whistler. Ever since recreational drones exploded in popularity, so too have reactionary rules on where you can and cannot operate them.
I looked it up: it turns out you’re not allowed to fly a drone anywhere in the town of Whistler or its surrounding parks unless you’re way, way out in the woods.
In fact, Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau, a former navy captain and astronaut, has put extremely strict regulations on where you can and cannot fly a drone in Canada.
In fact, it’s a challenge to actually figure out where you can legally fly a recreational drone. Operation seems restricted to the backcountry, except in national parks, where droning is illegal throughout.
But even in the backcountry, you must stay within the rules. Not to drone on, but last summer, my family and I were out for a hike on a bluff high above some cabins in a remote area of B.C. When we stopped to admire the view and have a snack, we heard the telltale, foreign sound of electronic overhead buzzing.
A drone dropped down in front of my family, hovering there, checking us out. I suggested to my wife that I take my walking stick and Joe Carter it into oblivion. My wife wouldn’t allow me the home run satisfaction, so I made due by giving the double bird to the camera attached to the drone.
The likely scenario was that cabin dwellers down below heard voices coming from the bluff (which was in a provincial park) so they sent their drone up to investigate. It was rude, invasive and, according to the rules, illegal because of its proximity to my family.
Heads up drone owners: Even in the backcountry, you can’t legally fly your drone within 30 metres of “vehicles, vessels, and the public,” and that’s if your drone is lightweight. If your nerd-copter is a heavier model, the distance is 76 metres.
As for here in Vancouver? Forget about it. You can’t legally fly a recreational drone anywhere within in the city limits.
Much like a cigar or a boom box, drones are obnoxious to pretty much everyone but the person using it. But annoyance is secondary to the main reason for citywide bans: apparently, one wee drone has the power to take down an airplane.
When the drone at the beach in Whistler recently fanned me, I did an informal Twitter poll on drones to see if I was being a buzzkill.
Here are a few responses:
Of course, I heard it from the other side as well. Mike Usinger, longtime music editor of the Georgia Straight, responded with a tweet that read “get off my lawn you goddamn kids!” suggesting that my umbrage with drones is a symptom of being a grumpy old man.
Another reply from @onerivermike read, in part, “Looking in windows is one thing, but privacy concerns from buzzing around a park is pearl clutch.” I had to look up “pearl cultch.” It’s an ageist, sexist term, suggesting that I’m overreacting like a fearful, female senior citizen.
Here’s the bottom line: if you choose to fly your drone in and amongst your fellow citizens, you can be fined anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000. But I still prefer the Joe Carter method.