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Rural drone complaint an infrequent Sundre RCMP call

Sundre RCMP detachment received 27 calls for service from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4
MVT stock Sundre RCMP sign
File photo/MVP Staff

SUNDRE – A rural resident who felt as though they were being spied on by a drone operator whose device was buzzing over their backyard reported the incident to police.

The file was among a total of 27 calls for service received by the Sundre RCMP department from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, which otherwise was a fairly quiet week for police, reported Sgt. Trent Sperlie, the detachment’s commander.

The complaint about the drone was called into police on Wednesday, Jan. 31.    

“They felt there was a drone that was spying on them in their yard,” said Sperlie, adding the device had already buzzed off by the time members arrived to investigate.

However, police had no reason to doubt the validity of the caller’s concerns, he added.

“We believe there was a drone, there’s nothing to indicate there wasn’t,” he said.  

“We just can’t prove whose drone it was at the moment,” he said, acknowledging when asked that one of the trickiest parts about these situations is not only tracking down where the drone came from but also being able to prove who was operating it.

With regards to specific legalities involved in operating drones over either rural or urban residential properties and what recourse for legal action exists for someone who feels they’re being spied on or even potentially cased out by high-tech burglars, the sergeant said there are certain restrictions including keeping clear the airspace around an airport and requiring operator training and registration for drones beyond a certain size, but that he would need to take a closer look at legislation regarding more specific details.

Additionally, police infrequently deal with such situations in this area, he said.

“It’s not something we encounter very often out here,” he said.

“But it’s certainly concerning that somebody would be prying into somebody else’s business by using a drone,” he added.

“As far as this incident goes, it’s not a far cry from mischief. It’s interfering with the lawful enjoyment of the property.”

Drones are something of a double-edged sword as the devices have proven invaluable in for example search and rescue operations, not only in helping to locate a missing person but even being able to deliver emergency supplies in the event the individual is in a remote location and cannot immediately be extracted by rescue crews.

“Those are all viable uses of a drone,” he said.

When reached for comment, the municipality’s community peace officer Sam Zhao said the town does not have any bylaws in place regulating the use of drones.

But he added that as with all laws, any existing provincial and federal legislation would overrule municipal bylaws anyway.

“There are regulations for Transport Canada depending on the weight of the drone,” Zhao said.

According to information available online, anyone in the country who plans to operate a drone that weights 250 grams or more must obtain either a basic or advanced license from Transport Canada, even if they only plan to fly over their own yard.

Additional rules include needing to obtain permission from the owner of a property on which the drone will be taking off or landing, flying a minimum of 30 metres away from people not involved in the operation, as well as safety precautions such as keeping a drone’s flight path clear of power lines.

Recommended places to operate drones in Canada include open fields and remote areas, although special permission is required to fly in any national park.

As per Canadian Aviation Regulations, “no pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system unless the pilot or a visual observer has the aircraft in visual line-of-sight at all times during flight.”

Among the other files the sergeant highlighted in the weekly recap of police activities was a person that on Jan. 31 had been reported missing in the backcountry but later turned up unharmed in town.

“They’re local from Sundre here,” he confirmed when asked. “A family member had reported that they thought maybe they were lost back there, but they turned up again in Sundre so there was no concern.”

On Jan. 30, a truck that was hauling a horse trailer became stuck on the edge of an icy road near Ya Ha Tinda. Members of the Sundre Fire Department attended the scene to render assistance with getting the trailer and horses back on the road, he said.

On Feb. 1, police received a “report of a disturbance in an open area in Sundre” with no charges subsequently laid. Asked about the nature of the disturbance and if perhaps the incident stemmed from someone who had seen vandalism in progress at a local park, the sergeant said the caller had seen a verbal altercation between a two people and was concerned the situation might devolve into a physical confrontation.

A report of threats being made was also received on Feb. 1, with the subsequent investigation determining that “the comments made were not criminal in nature,” he said.

There was also a report of gunshots heard on Feb. 3 in a rural area west of town, but “there was no evidence to determine an offence had occurred.”

Residents with any information about these or other incidents are encouraged to contact the Sundre RCMP’s complaint line at 403-638-3655.

Alternatively, information may also be provided anonymously by contacting Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), online at or by using the P3 Tips app available through the Apple App or Google Play Store.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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