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Can You Fly a Drone in Kananaskis?

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The Kananaskis Improvement District, or Kananaskis for short, is situated in the Rockies of Alberta, Canada. Outside of this municipality, in the vicinity, you’ll also find Kananaskis Country and Kananaskis Village.

Can you fly a drone anywhere in Kananaskis?

You can’t fly a drone in most of Kananaskis because Kananaskis Country includes an assortment of provincial park that prohibit UAVs for recreational use. Commercial pilots would require a permit.

If you’re a little confused, we’ll explain everything ahead, so make sure you keep reading! There’s lots of excellent information to come.

Can you fly a drone in Kananaskis Country? #

Alberta features a handful of improvement districts, which despite the name, are usually municipal authorities and sometimes business districts.

The Kananaskis Improvement District in the Alberta Rockies is on the same border as Kananaskis Country, a multi-use area near the Canadian Rockies that features Crown land, ecological reserves, wildland provincial parks, provincial recreational areas, and provincial parks.

To make matters more confusing, the laws vary from one place to another in Kananaskis Country.

As a drone pilot, here’s what you need to know. You cannot fly recreationally in any provincial parks in Alberta, including those in Kananaskis.

Alberta Parks[1] has a Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles policy in place. In the Recreational Use of UAVs in Alberta Parks section, the rule reads:

“The recreational use of a UAV is not allowed in sites in the provincial parks system.”

The Commercial Use of UAVs in Alberta Parks section explains that, currently, Alberta Parks does not permit commercial pilots to use a drone for supervised filming.

However, if they did, you’d have to pay a supervised filming fee of $110 CAD an hour to use your drone in any of the provincial parks.

Further, you’d need either a Special Flight Operations Certificate or an Advanced Pilots License, with no basic licenses permitted.

You’d have to describe your operation, including the geographical boundaries, and share your drone registration number.

You’d also need $100,000 CAD in liability insurance and a safety and emergency plan.

Which parks in Kananaskis Country are off-limits? #

Kananaskis Country measures only 1,500 square miles, yet it contains an ecological reserve, campgrounds, and several provincial parks.

Here’s a full list of which parks you cannot use your drone in:

  • Spray Valley Provincial Park
  • Sheep River Provincial Park
  • Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve
  • Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
  • Elbow-Sheep Wildland Provincial Park
  • Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park
  • Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park
  • Bragg Creek Provincial Park
  • Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park
  • Bow Valley Provincial Park
  • Bluerock Wildland Provincial Park

By the way, although the Plateau Mountain Ecological Reserve isn’t technically a provincial park but an ecological reserve instead, Alberta Parks still affords it the same level of protection as a provincial park.

Don’t plan to fly your drone here either!

Kananaskis Country also has several areas that aren’t official ecological reserves or provincial parks.

That said, you still shouldn’t risk using your drone in the following areas, as it’s probably illegal:

  • Sibbald Meadows Pond Provincial Recreational Area
  • Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreational Area
  • Strawberry Provincial Recreational Area
  • Stoney Creek Provincial Recreational Area
  • Sentinel Provincial Recreational Area
  • Evan-Thomas Provincial Recreational Area
  • Elbow River Valley Area
  • Bow Corridor Area

Can you fly a drone in Kananaskis Village? #

Kananaskis Village is yet a different part of the area, although it’s located in the Kananaskis Improvement District. The village is an unincorporated community by the Trans-Canada Highway.

The small resort community offers cross-country skiing, mountain biking, hiking trails, equestrian facilities at Boundary Ranch, downhill skiing at the Nakiska Ski Area, and golfing at the 36-hole Kananaskis Country Golf Course.

Where do drones fit into the picture? Well, simply put, they don’t.

You see, Kananaskis Village is a part of the Kananaskis Country park system. Even though it’s not technically an ecological reserve or a provincial park, it’s still likely under the jurisdiction of Alberta Parks.

You shouldn’t plan to bring a drone here!

What is the punishment for illegally using a drone in Kananaskis? #

Still thinking about taking a drone flight in Kananaskis? You might want to reconsider.

A 2017 article published in RMOToday[2] discusses an incident from that year involving a drone pilot who illegally entered Peter Lougheed Provincial Park with his drone.

He had to pay a fine of $287 CAD.

Until then, drone pilots hadn’t received any fines for illegal drone use in Kananaskis Country, but it only seemed to be a matter of time.

A 2015 article also from RMO Today discussed how drones were growing in number and entering places they shouldn’t, including Kananaskis Country and Canada’s beloved Banff Park.

At the time, it appears that Alberta Parks merely discouraged drone flights but didn’t outlaw them.

The effects on the wildlife in the area were already being felt. Goats and bighorn sheep were driven away by larger drones.

The article mentions a United States study from around the same time that found that the heart rates of some black bears go up exponentially when they see a drone, although not all bears were affected.

But we digress. Getting back to the gentleman who took a prohibited drone flight in Kananaskis, he had to appear in Canmore Provincial Court, where he pled guilty. The judge made clear that because the man fessed up to his crimes that he was issued the fine he was.

That implies a fine could easily be higher if you have a bad attitude.

While we couldn’t find any more current news stories about taking drone flights around Kananaskis, if it’s happened once, it’s probably happened again and will continue to happen again.

Don’t be the drone pilot who makes an avoidable mistake!

Can you fly a drone outside of Kananaskis? #

Recalling that Kananaskis isn’t all that large, if you were in the area, it wouldn’t take you long to venture outside of its boundaries. Can you use your drone beyond the area?

Well, to the north of you, you’ll find Banff National Park, and you already know you’re prohibited from flying there.

To the left are mountain regions such as Mt. King George and Mt. Assiniboine. You’re also not far from Kootenay State Park.

If you went south, you’d venture into the Bob Creek Wildland, and to the east, you’d be in the heart of Calgary.

You can fly a drone in Calgary, but as for the other locales around Kananaskis? It’s a toss-up.

To ensure you only use your drone in permitted airspace, we recommend you use a drone app. If you see any yellow areas, those are warning zones. Your drone can technically fly in warning zones but ask yourself if you really want to chance it.

Red zones denote restricted airspace, and you can’t fly in those zones.

Remember to follow Transport Canada drone laws if you find a permitted place around Kananaskis to launch and land your drone.

You need a pilot’s license if your drone weighs between 250 grams and 25 kilograms. You can obtain a basic license once you turn 14 and test for the advanced license at 16.

  • You must keep your drone in your line of sight.
  • Stay under 400 feet or 122 meters when flying.
  • Limit your basic operations distance from bystanders to 30 meters.
  • Stay away from advertised events and emergency operations (parades, outdoor events like concerts, forest fires, etc.).
  • Fly three nautical miles from airports and one nautical mile from heliports.
  • Give a wide berth to aircraft.

If you fly without a pilot’s license, you could receive a fine of $1,000 CAD. You’re also fined an additional $1,000 CAD for flying where you shouldn’t be and $3,000 CAD for risking the lives of people or aircraft.

Conclusion #

The Kananaskis Improvement District includes the small and luxe Kananaskis Village and Kananaskis Country.

You’re prohibited from using your drone in a provincial park or ecological area, which Kananaskis Country is widely comprised of.

Rather than try to find a place to use your drone and risk getting fined, you’re better off venturing to another part of Alberta or even greater Canada and launching your drone in freer skies.

References:1. Alberta Parks (link)2. RMOToday (link)


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