With the popularity of drones taking flight and the rules for flying them constantly evolving, some Inuvik residents are working to sharpen their aviation knowledge.
From Sept. 12 to 14, 10 students took part in Aurora College’s first ground school course in the region for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
They learned about air laws and regulations, weather and communications, and the importance of flying safely in shared airspace – earning recognition for completing the course, as well as their restricted operators certificate for radio communication.
“This technology has arrived now. It’s here to stay,” said Sterling Cripps, president of Canadian Unmanned Incorporated and the instructor of the three-day course in Inuvik.
By equipping operators with an understanding of how to operate UAVs within the rules, he said, “that’s good for everybody in the air and on the ground.”
Dez Loreen is a local filmmaker who uses drones for nature photography and to capture shots for videos.
He’s also interested in racing them for fun, he said.
He took part in the course to understand how to operate his UAVs safely, he said, adding drone users are really just pilots.
“There are so many drones out there,” said Loreen. “It’s really important that we have these people educated and know the rules and operate within them. You have to really know what you’re doing.”
Others took the course because they see a commercial opportunity in Inuvik.
Brian Richards said he has received requests to provide photos and video from around town, but hasn’t legally been able to do it yet.
“That’s one reason why I am here,” said Richards, explaining that once he has the right certification and licensing, he will be able to sell his work.
He said the ground school helped him understand what he can and cannot do when flying.
“I want to be able to provide video of things … and do it in a safe and a legal manner,” said Richards. “That’s the big one for me.”
The possibilities for using drones in the North are wide-reaching – from search and rescue to environmental studies, said Cripps.
“It’s an exciting time right now,” he said.
Matthew Dares, manager of technology development at the Aurora Research Institute, echoed the sentiment.
“There’s a real need in this region for flight operations,” he said. “It just made sense for the college to look into providing training in the region, because of the high level of interest.”
With registration for this month’s course completely full, Dares said he expects there will be more courses like it in the future.