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Drone attracts attention

Quadrotor Dragonfly

Aviation experts are outraged over a YouTube video that shows a remote-controlled drone flying close to an airplane at Vancouver International Airport.

The video, posted to YouTube on Nov. 4, 2013 by user Quadrotor Dragonfly, was filmed using a camera aboard the drone as it appears to be flying at the same altitude as a jetliner as the jetliner passes by on its way to land at the airport.

"It's pilots like these who can give the hobby a black eye," said Steve Hughes, a member of the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada's board of directors. "YouTube is going to be the death of us."

Rod Nelson, a spokesman for Transport Canada, said his department is very concerned, and is investigating the incident.

"We have been working with the RCMP to determine the operator's identity," he said.

Experts warn that small, unmanned aerial vehicles pose a threat because they can get sucked into aircrafts' jet engines or propellers, smash into windshields, or damage their instruments.

Transport Canada already regulates drone use in the country, and expects operators to obtain permission before they fly.

And while Transport Canada doesn't concern itself with low-level flights carried out within sight of the drone operator, they're alarmed by drones that might stray into an aircraft flight path.

It's not the first time a remote-controlled vehicle has had a close call at the Vancouver airport. Last March, the crew of a Boeing 777 reported seeing a remote-controlled helicopter flying just 30 metres away at the same altitude as their plane.

There is nothing to indicate a connection between that incident in March and the video posted by Quadrotor Dragonfly.

Quadrotor Dragonfly's YouTube channel has a number of aerial flyover videos from locations in Vietnam and Vancouver, though the video in question is the only time a drone is seen flying close to an airport.

"I am hooked on multirotors," said Quadrotor's YouTube page. "I have been building multirotors for aerial filming and also autonomous flights. With this channel, I endavor (sic) to share my adventures."

Drones are becoming more widespread as costs come down and technology improves. Law enforcement agencies in many provinces now use them for surveillance and search-and-rescue tasks, while cheaper models costing as little as $170 have become popular among hobbyists.

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