The fastest growing sector within the aerospace industry is
undoubtedly Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, commonly known as drones.
They are characterized as devices that can be used for multiple
reasons including commercial, combat, real estate, emergency,
academic, surveillance and recreational purposes. By definition, a
drone is a term that refers to "any vehicle that can operate
on surfaces or in the air without a person on board to control
Given the wide array of shapes and sizes that drones can take
on, they have become increasingly popular. They can be very
inconspicuous depending on the design of the drone and may blend in
with their surroundings. In fact, some drones operate almost
silently and can include biomimetics, which enables the drone to
look like wildlife and plants. If you have seen Helen Mirren's
movie "Eye In the Sky" you have seen an example of this,
where a drone disguised as a beetle infiltrates the house of a
terrorist for reconnaissance purposes.
What are Drones Used For?
In the public sector, drones are frequently used for national
security, intelligence gathering, public safety, infrastructure
protection, crisis management and environmental research
purposes.2 Privately, drones are used for research,
exploration, image capturing, mapping and monitoring purposes, to
name a few.
Drones can be customized to fit numerous technological devices
so they can adapt to differing situations, with their only
limitation being payload capacity (how much weight they can carry).
The equipment that can be affixed to a drone includes cameras (with
features such as night vision, thermal imaging, and infrared
settings) and radar. When combined with wireless transmission
functions, drones can send real time audio and visual data back to
their operators. For instance, it was discovered that the Pentagon
had spent millions of dollars on a hummingbird drone, amongst
others, that had a 6.5-inch wingspan and weighed less than a AA
battery. These drones can fly at speeds up to 11 miles per hour,
all with a video camera affixed to its midsection. The hummingbird
is remote controlled, and can fly vertically, sideways, forward,
backward, and rotate in all directions.3
The Future of Drones
Industry Canada estimates that drone use is expected to grow
domestically as the industry becomes more commercially viable and
the regulatory environment becomes more accommodating.4
Current global drone production is estimated to be $4 billion
annually, and is projected to grow to approximately $93 billion
within the next decade.5 This represents a compound
annual growth rate just shy of 40%!
What are the Drone Legal Considerations?
As drones become more prevalent, several legal considerations
have emerged that impact drone operators, who must be cognizant of
these risks and potential liability. The following are a few of the
risks that must be planned for:
Drone makers must be aware of product liability laws that apply
within the manufacturing, distribution and sale of drones.
There are insurance considerations involving first and third
party property damage, first and third party personal injury and
Improper drone operation may trigger provisions contained in
the Trespass Act and can even result in criminal charges.
Drones are further regulated by federal, provincial and
municipal laws, which will vary geographically across Canada.
The consequences of failing to consider or understand these
issues can result in significant exposure to liability for drone
operators, both criminally and civilly. Drone operators who
improperly use these devices could be subject to criminal charges,
statutory fines and expensive civil litigation if their drones are
not used responsibly.
The number of legal considerations that impact on drone use and
operation are complex and frequently changing, thus a continued
proactive approach must be adopted to minimize risk. Lerners LLP
has adopted a focus on how the legal environment will impact the
use of drones, and will release a series of blog articles over the
next few months that provide discussion on some of these
1Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Drones in
Canada: Will the Proliferation of Domestic Drone use in Canada
Raise New Concerns for Privacy:
https://www.priv.gc.ca/information/research-recherche/2013/drones_201303_e.asp 2Office of the Privacy Commissioner, supra note
1. 3NBC News, On the wings of technology: Hummingbird
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41837647/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/wings-technology-hummingbird-drones/#.Vyy5bf7mo3E 4Office of the Privacy
Commissioner, supra note 1. 5Phil Finnegan, UAV Production Will Total $93
In the recent case Routh Chovaz Insurance Brokers Inc. v. Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, 2016 ONSC 2567, the court granted summary judgment to Aviva, dismissing an action brought by an insurance broker...
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