Judge Convicts and Fines Canadian for Flying Drone Near Airport

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On October 26, 2018, a Canadian man was convicted and fined for operating his drone within 30 feet of the approach path at the airport in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (Airport Station Code: YZF).

Toufic Chamas was convicted under s. 77(e) of the Criminal Code of Canada for endangering aviation safety near an airport through the operation of a drone and was fined $3,000. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and as reported by the CBC, this is the first drone-related conviction of its kind under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Mr. Chamas’ sentence for the drone offence was jointly recommended by the prosecution and the accused to the presiding judge (known as a “joint submission”). Judges in Canada are generally required to accept joint submissions. A judge may only decline to accept a joint submission where the proposed sentence would “bring the administration of justice into disrepute, or would otherwise be contrary to the public interest”: R. v. Anthony-Cook, 2016 SCC 43. In her remarks in open court, Justice Schmaltz explicitly referenced this requirement as a basis for accepting the recommended sentence, signalling that the sentence was, in her view, too lenient. Mr. Chamas has a history of disregarding court orders and has been caught flying his drone illegally in the city of Yellowknife several times before this incident.

The key take away from this case is that reckless drone operations near airports and populated areas will be taken seriously by the courts and significant fines may be levied against recreational pilots (the maximum amounts for which are defined by the Canadian Aviation Regulations).