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Image credit: Aaron Josefczyk / Reuters

Drone hits a commercial plane for the first time in Canada

It was flying illegally around a Québec City airport.
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Aaron Josefczyk / Reuters

A twin-engined commercial prop aircraft has struck a drone for the first time in Canada, says Minister of Transport Marc Garneau. The Skyjet Beech King Air 100 was on approach to Jean Lesage International Airport in Québec City when it hit an unknown type of UAV. Garneau said that the drone was flying at around 1,500 feet, three miles from the airport -- 500 feet above the legal limit. The plane landed safely and sustained only minor damage, but "it could have been a lot more serious," he told the CBC.

Any aircraft in an ATC (air traffic control) area around airports must have clearance to be there, and drones aren't permitted above 90 meters (about 300 feet) in Canada, under penalty of a $3,000 fine. "It's important to note that aircraft are particularly vulnerable when on final approach coming in," said Garneau, a three-time space shuttle astronaut. "The pilot is concentrating on landing properly."

Governments around the world have struggled to balance passenger safety with the commercial needs of drone pilots. The US Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) recently released its own rules that require daylight or dusk operation within the pilot's line of sight. Commercial drone pilots must be at least 16 years old and need to pass an Aeronautical Knowledge Test before they can get their remote pilot certificate. Heights are limited to 400 feet, but the FAA has issued numerous waivers for that rule.

In Canada, the rules implemented in March of this year are even more strict -- drones must keep about 5.6 miles away from any airport or body of water where aircraft take off. Anyone found to have endangered an aircraft could be subject to a $25,000 fine. "When it comes to safety, I don't think anything is overkill," said Garneau at the time.

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