A major global drone manufacturer is condemning “any unsafe operation of drones,” after an unmanned aerial vehicle struck a passenger plane over Quebec City last week.
DJI, a Chinese technology company, said in a statement Monday that it “stands ready to assist” Canadian aviation authorities as they investigate the Oct. 12 incident.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters on Sunday that a small Skyjet plane was struck by a drone as it approached Quebec City’s Jean Lesage airport. The plane was still able to land safely, and no injuries were reported among the eight people aboard.
It was the first recorded incident of a drone hitting a plane in Canada.
In its statement, DJI said it’s unaware whether any of its drones were involved. Transport Canada did not say what type of drone hit the plane.
DJI said its drones are programmed by default to fly no higher than 120 metres and the company’s “geofencing” system restricts its products from flying over Quebec City airport.
“Millions of drones are used safely and responsibly around the world for business, agriculture and enjoyment,” the company said. “DJI absolutely condemns any unsafe operation of drones and urges all drone pilots to understand and obey the laws and regulations in their jurisdiction.”
One Canadian expert said it was only a matter of time before a drone collided with a plane.
“This has unfortunately….been waiting to happen just due to volume of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that are flying around illegally in Canada in airspace with users that don’t know what they’re doing,” Sterling Cripps, president and chief instructor of Canadian Unmanned, told CTV News Channel Monday.
“This could have been catastrophic…it could have caused a tremendous disaster.”
Transport Canada is working on regulations for the UAV industry and has issued a series of interim safety measures. It is illegal to fly a recreational drone within 5.5 kilometres of an airport and 1.8 kilometres of a heliport without special permission.
Anyone who is found to have endangered the safety of an aircraft could face a $25,000 fine or prison time.
Garneau said Sunday that the rules to be introduced in 2018 would include testing for drone pilots, mandatory identification of drones and an age limit for drone use.
DJI has previously said that it’s disappointed by Canada’s draft drone regulations, saying they would “significantly limit safe and responsible drone use.”
With files from The Canadian Press