Dangerous Drone

This site seeks to inform the public of the dangers and abuses related to the use of drones, model aircraft and RPAS for recreation.  It contains research gathered from multiple sources and asks important questions as well as exploring possible solutions to a challenging public safety issue.

Knowingly Endangering Citizens

When someone is doing something wrong and is caught, one might give that party the benefit of the doubt because their intent is unknown.  However, what if there is evidence showing that MAAC and AMA know about the risks the hobby posses to public safety?  Instead of handling the safety issues by reducing the risks and encouraging accountability, MAAC promotes the message of how safe the hobby is; this while accidents are not reported. Messages of safety from this hobby knowingly mask the dangers to residents in close proximity to flying club sites.

Not Reporting All Incidents and Accidents

Currently MAAC members are not required to report all incidents and accidents and there are troubling and significant gaps in the rules because club executives or members appear to have discretion in determining if a report should be made.  The Transport Canada CARs exemption does not require that all incidents and accidents be reported leaving this to the discretion of members whose best interests are served by silence.  The exemption condition is very specific to only aircraft and people on the ground; that means that all other dangerous events may go unreported. 

Transport Canada CARs Exemption 

5 - MAAC shall keep a list of incidents and accidents between MAAC operated RPAS and other aircraft or persons on the ground that are not members of the association to which this exemption applies. MAAC shall provide this list to the Minister upon request. 

Without going into detail, the MAAC document, “Turbine Operator Certificate (TOC) Policy” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=319) specifies when an accident happens in the United States, it needs to be reported to MAAC.  This is outlined in the section called, “Examples requiring a follow up report” and “Examples not requiring follow up report.”  There should not be any ambiguity when incidents or accidents are reported, the data needs to be consistent to be meaningful and everything needs to be reported to get an accurate representation of the safety of the hobby.  This is important because a crash beside a home that may put a family’s safety at risk may go unreported.  The club may decide not to report it thinking that if no aircraft or people were in contact then there is no requirement to make a report even though the RC aircraft crashed outside the flying zone, on neighbouring property. 

A Message of Safety

There is a lot of self promotion by MAAC about how safe the hobby is in order to cast themselves in a certain light.  Here are a few quick examples to make the point that MAAC promotes the hobby as being “safe.” 

An example is in the “Final NOTES” section of the MAAC document titled, “Exemption Guidance Material” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=498

Finally, members need to speak up whenever they see individuals operating outside the MAAC safety code and guidelines.  Its everyone’s responsibility to help educate others, protect our privileges and maintain our seven (7) decade culture of safety so we can all enjoy aeromodelling for decades to come. 

There are lots of examples professing the safety record in MAC Magazine but the following is just ridiculous because the Phelan RC Flying Club is in this zone and members have been frequently seen breaking the rules.  Geoff Strotmann, the MAAC Zone G director states the following in the Nov-Dec 2019 MAC Magazine issue (https://secure.maac.ca/get_magazine_public.php?magazine_id=76). 

I am extremely pleased to report that another year of extremely safe flight operations across our zone is almost in the books. I celebrate this topic because it is absolutely fundamental to the continued existence of our hobby. So I applaud all of you for your attention to safety and use of common sense this past year and support all our efforts to continue this excellent behaviour going forward. 

It seems that this reference to “safety” is just a term used to both sell the idea that MAAC is conscientious about safety while at the same time promoting themselves to government bodies (this becomes more clear when examining the use of the MAAC certification programs).  At the Phelan RC Flying Club there appears to be members who have businesses that profit from the activities.  Safety just seems like a keyword to enable them to continue to do what they want.  An easy approach to the issue is to document all incidents no matter how minor or risk serious fines or closures so that a more accurate picture of safety emerges.  As a group given responsibility for clubs, accountability is needed from MAAC not marketing. 

Not Reporting Accidents

There is evidence that MAAC clubs are not reporting accidents and this brings the safety record into question especially when documented in a magazine.  According page 35 of the March-April 2019 issue of “Model Aviation Canada (MAC) Magazine” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_magazine_public.php?magazine_id=72). “All incidents should be reported whether a claim results or not.”   However, the director of “Zone E” explains, “I had a club that did not report any accidents that did not have any claims. As far as they were concerned, no claim, don’t bother.”  Therefore even though incidents are supposed to be reported, clubs may not be reporting them.

A Dangerous Hobby

When becoming a MAAC member, one must fill out an application form that includes a declaration that the member knows the activity is dangerous.  This means that MAAC is also very aware of the dangers.  The declaration in the, “Membership Application Form 2020,” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=535) states the following. 


“I understand that engaging in air modeling activities may be dangerous. I have read and will abide by the rules and regulations that have been established, or will in future be established, by the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada. I understand that my failure to comply with the rules and regulations of MAAC may result in denial of my membership and/or in failure of insurance coverage.” 

There is a known risk of serious injury when operating RC aircraft and the risks increase with the size and speed.  This means that when the Phelan RC Flying Club flies giant scale model jets 70 meters away from the neighbouring property, they are aware of the risks this poses to residents in the vicinity.  Knowledge of these risks is identified in the MAAC document, “MAP 3 - Helpful Suggestions for the Operation of R/C General Category Model Aircraft” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=66). 

Conclusions and Recommendations.   

5.1      Generally speaking it is a good idea to avoid flying alone if at all possible. Though the risk of injury might be quite low for smaller models the possibility of serious injury increases as the size and speed of the model grows. Even ground handling of larger models by one’s self can be dangerous and the location and remoteness of some flying sites might make it difficult to summon help. Carrying a cell phone is a good practice as well.  

On the subject of giant scale model aircraft and in the case of turbine powered aircraft, not all locations are suitable for operating this kind of machine.  Obviously the site needs to be large enough and far enough away from residents to operate safely.  The fact that not all locations are suitable for turbine powered flight is stated in the MAAC document “Introduction to Turbine Powered Flight” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=565). 

Proper Flying Sites  

Not all sites are suitable for turbine operations. They require clear approaches for take off and landing. Due to the higher speeds of the aircraft the over fly area is much larger so attention to where your aircraft is flying is paramount. 

Another troubling statement is found in the MAAC document titled, “Large Model Safety Guidelines,” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=231) which states the following. 

1.3 The Event Director, Safety Officer and Flight Line Director shall ensure that all participants in a MAAC Large Model sanctioned event are fully cognizant of the fact that the operation of radio controlled aircraft can be dangerous and such participants should always be alert.  

This means that people who are at an event for large model aircraft need to “always be alert,” because “the operation of radio controlled aircraft can be dangerous.”  This is certainly an official reason showing why residents in proximity to the Phelan RC Flying Club where large scale aircraft are flown (the president is a promoter of Giant Scale aircraft) should be worried.  Should the neighbouring residents have to constantly live in fear that their family may be hurt by these aircraft?  There must be a known history of dangerous activity in the hobby for there to be a MAAC documents that refers to the “the unscrupulous and irresponsible use of unmanned aviation systems.”  The document “Guidelines for MAAC Involvement at Full Scale Events & Facilities” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=386) expresses the concern. 

There are very real concerns regarding the unscrupulous and irresponsible use of unmanned aviation systems by persons who have not had the opportunity for qualified and safety conscious instruction on the appropriate principles and legislation. 

A reminder that MAAC describes AMA as: “AMA is the MAAC equivalent in the United States, although almost 17 times larger” in their 2019 Annual Operating Plan (p.4) (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=463). 

The awareness of the danger and the concern that it becomes public knowledge is clearly stated in the AMA document titled, Getting and Keeping Flying Sites” (6th edition, AMA 2011)” (https://www.modelaircraft.org/sites/default/files/GettingandKeepingFlyingSitesFINAL2.pdf

Safety Recommendations  

The majority of model flying that takes place today is recreational rather than within a formal competition framework, and sometimes on publicly accessible sites with little or no formal control. Any accident involving model aircraft may result in property damage and/or bodily injury. Apart from the direct harm, a less obvious result is the poor image of model flying that results from media coverage of such accidents, which may lead to public antagonism and the loss of flying facilities. It is therefore of the utmost importance that all model fliers observe safety rules. 

Acknowledgement of the dangers that the hobby posses are expressed in the statement, “Any accident involving model aircraft may result in property damage and/or bodily injury. The concern about how bad the hobby would look if people knew how dangerous it is follows. “a less obvious result is the poor image of model flying that results from media coverage of such accidents, which may lead to public antagonism and the loss of flying facilities.” 

MAAC has a certification program allowing operators to fly in the United States.  The MAAC document, “Turbine Operator Certificate (TOC) Policy” (https://secure.maac.ca/get_document.php?document_id=319) states the following.  

Applicants for the TOC should be competent and comfortable with their aircraft. Pilots with histories (in any type of model) of erratic flying, safety incidents, insufficient confidence, and/or high number of crashes (ie. more than 2 per year from any cause) will not be considered for TOC until the trend has clearly improved. 

This statement seems to indicate that there are MAAC members flying turbine powered aircraft that have, “erratic flying, safety incidents, insufficient confidence, and/or high number of crashes.”  So an operator who is a known danger only needs to wait a few years to go for this certification.  What is also disturbing is that MAAC members that are a danger to public safety are still allowed to fly in Canada even though they are dangerous, “until the trend has clearly improved”.  According to the Transport Canada CARs exemption, “The member of MAAC operating a RPAS shall be in good standing with the association” but in this case a MAAC member who is a known danger is still allowed to fly model aircraft.  Shouldn’t MAAC be revoking the membership of members who are dangerous?

Someone was killed in 2019 by an RC aircraft much farther away from the flying site than the residence directly across the road from the Phelan RC Flying Club site.  The Phelan RC Flying Club posted the following on their Facebook page on November 2nd, 2019 which included a link to the article. 

A grim reminder how seriously we need to treat some of our “flying toys” 

It is dishonest; promoting a message that the hobby is safe while knowing that the activity is dangerous.  Reporting all incidents and accidents would give a clearer picture of the safety record but right now the safety record is distorted.  MAAC knows this is a dangerous hobby, AMA knows the dangers but concern is about it becoming public, the Phelan RC Flying Club knows about the danger posting about a death, so why is this activity allowed to continue so close to residents?