It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a drone!



If you’ve seen an unusual bird in the skies of Petrolia, it may not have been a bird at all.

Remote controlled drones equipped with cameras are becoming more popular and they’re being seen in the skies in Petrolia and Central Lambton.

When the Town of Petrolia was inspecting the water tower, they didn’t have to send people into the tower, according to Deputy Clerk Mandi Pearson.

“The engineer had a drone that’s how they did some of the inspection…the engineer did the inspection operating it up and down around inside the tower,” she says. “They are a good tool. Think of the benefit of doing an inspection you can get up there without the trouble of the scaffolding,” says Pearson.

The town is not the only one harnessing the trendy technology. Hugh Clouse of Clouse Photography has drones for sale and has one of his own which he is renting out for all kinds of uses.

One of the biggest demands so far is roof-top inspections.

“St. Paul’s United Church was going to have to pay $1,000 to put up scaffolding to check the roof and inspect it for repairs and we were able to do it for them,” says Clouse says the drone also inspected the roof at Mid Valley Apartments and with the photos and video contractors were able to estimate how many bundles of shingles would be needed for reroofing without ever setting foot on it.

And he says emergency responders would be able to make use of the drones. The former OPP officer can see police inspecting accident scene in the air or starting a quick aerial search for a child lost in a cornfield or looking for a suspect in a bank robbery.

Firefighters in the US have used it to inspect burning buildings containing explosives. “They wanted to know if it was safe to go in,” says Clouse.

While there are a host of uses for drones, there are questions surrounding them also. There is little regulation over the unmanned planes in Canada. Businesses need a license from Transport Canada but if you’re using it for fun no permit is required.

And there are concerns about privacy. Critics are concerned people may try to spy on neighbours with the tiny devices.

Pearson says so far municipal associations have issued no guidelines for drone use. “The only thing I think could be a problem when they fly over is privacy issues,” she says adding that could be covered by existing privacy regulations.

Clouse believes those concerns are overblown. “Airplanes fly over your house all the time,” he says. “Heck, Google takes pictures and you can zoom in at ground level. There are cooks everywhere but I don’t see it as a large problem.”