YOW Drone incident recounted in WINGS magazine

YOW Drone incident recounted in WINGS magazine

By Scott Simmie


If you follow the news from Indro Robotics regularly, you’re likely aware we’re the key technology provider for the YOW Drone Detection Pilot Project.

For several years, we’ve been involved in detecting drones flying in proximity to the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport. The data is collated into regular reports and shared with partners including Transport Canada, NAV Canada and the RCMP. It has also proven invaluable in assisting YOW with developing protocols for drone incursions and even apprehension of individuals violating RPAS airspace rules.

Among the project highlights we’ve covered in the past:

These stories have been picked up by multiple news outlets in the past, including the Ottawa Citizen, CBC  News, sUASNEWS, DroneDJ – and many more. In fact, here’s one those CBC pieces, covering the drone detection used during President Joe Biden’s visit:




The data obtained during that December 2022 incursion is highly detailed. In fact, it offers a moment-by-moment description of how the flights went down (and up), along with how YOW authorities responded to the event. You can find the WINGS article online here, but we’ve also pasted it below for your convenience.

Apologies for the split headline, but this was a double-truck page.




We’re grateful to WINGS Magazine Editor Jon Robinson for amplifying our YOW drone incursion story. The more that incidents like these are publicised, it’s reasonable to assume that fewer will occur as people learn more about the regulations and penalties.

It’s also clear, as was demonstrated at the 2023 Aerial Evolution Association of Canada conference, that drone mitigation technology continues to improve. During the event, there was a demonstration of a drone that can track down and disable a rogue RPAS with the kinetic firing of a net. (Radio Frequency jamming is not permitted under Industry Canada rules except in extraordinary circumstances.)

“We’re pleased to see that this story is still making the rounds, and hopefully educating drone operators who may be unfamiliar with the rules and penalties,” says InDro Robotics CEO Philip Reece.  

“But we’re even more pleased to see that incidents such as these are relatively rare. The YOW Drone Detection Pilot Project has captured very valuable data over the years – and continues to do so.”

Interested in drone detection and mitigation solutions for your airport, stadium or other sensitive asset? InDro subsidiary Bravo Zulu has multiple options and can be contacted here

Drone pilot fined $3,021 for drone incursion at YOW

Drone pilot fined $3,021 for drone incursion at YOW

By Scott Simmie


A drone pilot has been hit with fines totalling more than $3,000 for two unauthorised and potentially dangerous flights at YOW – the Ottawa International Airport.

The flights took place in December of 2022 and involved the drone flying in close proximity to active runways while aircraft were landing. The flights were detected – and the pilot located – by the YOW Drone Detection Pilot Project. InDro Robotics supplies the core technology for that system, which has been in operation some 2-1/2 years.

In fact, the system allowed police to be directed to the location of the pilot while he was flying the drone from inside his car at a hotel parking lot.

“The individual was quite surprised that a police cruiser pulled up – and expressed ignorance about flying in the vicinity of the airport,” says Michael Beaudette, Vice President of Security, Emergency Management and Customer Transportation with the Ottawa International Airport Authority.

“He said he wasn’t aware he couldn’t fly there.”

He was about to be educated.

Below: Part of the YOW drone detection system, which uses multiple technologies

Ottawa Drone Detection



The system at YOW is capable of detecting the location of active DJI drones up to 40 kilometres away. It is also designed to pick up on other brands of commercial drones flying at closer proximity to the airport by identifying their unique radio frequency signatures.

On December 20, the system generated an alert. Someone was flying a DJI Air 2S drone, which weighs 595 grams, adjacent to the airport.

Flight one: The flight began at 10:07 AM and the drone and pilot were detected at the parking lot of the World Fuel Services building. The drone remained at ground level for five minutes; at 10:12 the operator and drone were detected near the hotel immediately adjacent to the airport – a likely indicator the pilot was in a vehicle and on the move. The drone began increasing in altitude, reaching a height of 873′ – nearly 500′ above the altitude allowed by Transport Canada in areas where drones are permitted. The flight lasted nearly 17 minutes, during which a helicopter arrived at the airport.

Our Airport Operations Coordination Centre (AOCC) quickly checked to see if there had been any approvals granted for drone activity in the immediate vicinity of the airport and confirmed that there were none,” explains Beaudette. “They then notified the Airport Section of the Ottawa Police Service of the detection, who were then dispatched to the general area where the drone had been active. However, by that time the flight had been terminated.”

Flight two: The pilot was detected in the parking lot of the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Ottawa Airport. This flight began at 11:35, climbing initially to an altitude of 200′ before increasing to 507′ Above Ground Level. Lasting 6.85 minutes, the drone landed at 11:41. While that drone was in the air, a Jazz Q-400 landed on Runway 25 at 11:36.


“When we received an alert of the second flight, we were able to track the drone flight in real time and pinpoint the exact location of the pilot,” adds Beaudette. “The Ottawa Police Service cruiser approached the pilot as he was sitting in his car piloting the drone and ordered him to land it immediately.”

It’s no surprise these flights were of great concern to authorities at the airport.

Both flights took place without prior notification to, or approval by, NAV Canada,” says Beaudette. “The drone was operating within 350 meters of an active runway and during the first flight, the drone was also operating in very close proximity to a helicopter that was manoeuvering in the area.”

The image below, via Google Earth, shows where the system detected the pilot. During the second flight, police located the pilot mid-flight and ordered him to bring the drone to the ground.
YOW drone detection



As the saying goes, “Ignorance is no excuse for the law.” In other words, being unaware of regulations provides zero legal cover. Police took the pilot’s information, which was passed along to Transport Canada.

That’s because it’s TC, not local law enforcement (with the exception of local bylaw infractions), responsible for enforcing rules that govern drones. And in Canada, those rules are found in Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARS), Part IX. (If you’re a drone pilot and haven’t read these yet, we highly recommend you do.)


The pilot violated multiple sections of CARS. And each of those comes with a financial penalty. Here are the sections violated, and the fines assessed:

  • CAR 900.06 – No person shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system in such a reckless or negligent manner as to endanger or be likely to endanger aviation safety or the safety of any person. (Penalty assessed: $370.50)
  • CAR 901.02 No person shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system unless the remotely piloted aircraft is registered in accordance with this Division. (Penalty assessed: $370.50)
  • CAR 901.14(1) Subject to subsection 901.71(1), no pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft in controlled airspace(Penalty assessed: $456.00)
  • CAR 901.25(1) Subject to subsection (2), no pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft at an altitude greater than (a) 400 feet (122 m) AGL; or (b) 100 feet (30 m) above any building or structure, if the aircraft is being operated at a distance of less than 200 feet (61 m), measured horizontally, from the building or structure. (Penalty assessed: $456.00)
  • CAR 901.27 No pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system unless, before commencing operations, they determine that the site for take-off, launch, landing or recovery is suitable for the proposed operation by conducting a site survey that takes into account the following factors:

      (a) the boundaries of the area of operation;

      (b) the type of airspace and the applicable regulatory requirements;

      (c) the altitudes and routes to be used on the approach to and departure from the area of operation;

      (d) the proximity of manned aircraft operations;

      (e) the proximity of aerodromes, airports and heliports;

      (f) the location and height of obstacles, including wires, masts, buildings, cell phone towers and wind turbines;

      (g) the predominant weather and environmental conditions for the area of operation; and

      (h) the horizontal distances from persons not involved in the operation.  (Penalty assessed: $456.00)

    • CAR 901.47(2) Subject to section 901.73, no pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft at a distance of less than

        (a) three nautical miles from the centre of an airport; and

        (b) one nautical mile from the centre of a heliport.  (Penalty assessed: $456.00)

      • CAR 901.54(1) Subject to subsection (2), no person shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system under this Division unless the person

          (a) is at least 14 years of age; and

          (b) holds either

          (i) a pilot certificate — small remotely piloted aircraft (VLOS) — basic operations issued under section 901.55; or

          (ii) a pilot certificate — small remotely piloted aircraft (VLOS) — advanced operations issued under section 901.64.  (Penalty assessed: $456.00)

        Add that all up? It comes to $3021.00. Those are pretty significant consequences for the pilot.

        Below: The blue and red lines indicate the drone’s path; you can see at the top right the maximum altitude was more nearly 900′ AGL, and the drone was at that height for roughly a third of its time in the air.

        YOW drone detection



        YOW was pleased to see that Transport Canada took this incident seriously. And Michael Beaudette hopes this incident can be used to raise awareness.

        “Firstly, to remind drone operators that Transport Canada has regulations regarding drones operating near airports and aerodromes to ensure the safety of the public both in the air and on the ground,” he says. “Secondly, that individuals who are not aware of, or do not respect these regulations can be detected and held accountable, as in this case, subjected to fines that could be in the thousands of dollars.”

        Of course, these flights would likely have gone undetected were it not for YOW’s Drone Detection Pilot Project. This ongoing project, you may be aware, recorded multiple illegal flights during the so-called “Freedom Convoy” protests in Ottawa, and was put to use during US President Joe Biden’s 2023 state visit.

        “It has opened our eyes as to how many drones are active in the National Capital Region, particularly, in and around our approach paths of our runways and in the immediate vicinity of the airport itself,” says Beaudette.

        “It has also led to collaborative efforts between Transport Canada, NAV Canada and multiple Class 1 airports to become better aware of this issue and to develop contingencies to respond to incidents such as the one we experienced in Dec 2022.”

        Below: Data showed the drone in the air as a crewed aircraft came in to land:

        INDRO’S TAKE


        InDro Robotics, like other Canadian professional operators, has a healthy respect for the CARS regulations. They are there for a reason, and not following the regs can lead to serious consequences. In fact, we wrote at length about a collision between an York Regional Police drone and a Cessna at the Buttonville Airport.

        “There can be no question that drones flying near active runways poses a significant – and completely avoidable – threat,” says InDro Robotics CEO Philip Reece, who is also a licensed private pilot.

        “The regulations are there for a reason: To protect the safety of crewed aircraft, as well as people and property on the ground. InDro is proud to be the core technology partner of the YOW Drone Detection Pilot Project – and this incident is a perfect reason why.”

        Interested in a drone detection system? InDro would be happy to discuss your needs and offer our expertise. Contact us here.



        By Scott Simmie


        If you follow InDro Robotics, you’ll likely be aware that we were a co-founder and core technology partner of the YOW Drone Detection Pilot Project.

        The system has been operating since the fall of 2020, and detects drone intrusions not only at the Ottawa International Airport, but as far as 40 kilometres away in the National Capital Region. Data from the project helps to inform airport protocols and is shared on a regular basis with Transport Canada and law enforcement.

        Back during the “Freedom Convoy” protests in downtown Ottawa, the system got onto the mainstream radar after we published this story, which outlined the high number of unauthorised drone flights taking place in downtown Ottawa. The Ottawa Citizen covered that story here and it was also a cover story for WINGS Magazine.

        Now, the system is back in the news for a different reason: The recent visit of US President Joe Biden to Ottawa.

        President Biden



        Prior to the actual visit, advance teams from the Secret Service and Air Force One wanted to check out security and logistics at the Ottawa International Airport. And one of the first questions? Whether YOW had a drone detection system.

        The answer, as you know, is Yes. We interviewed Michael Baudette, YOW’s VP of Security, Emergency Management and Customer Transportation. The resulting post garnered a lot of attention, including a lengthy interview by CBC Ottawa.

        To view the segment on the Drone Detection Pilot project, check out the video below.

        Ottawa International Airport, InDro, provide drone detection during Biden visit

        Ottawa International Airport, InDro, provide drone detection during Biden visit

        By Scott Simmie


        A drone detection system described as “probably the best at any airport in the country” played a role in ensuring the safety of Air Force One during Joe Biden’s first visit as US President to Canada.

        InDro Robotics is one of the key technology partners, supplying drone detection hardware and software for the Ottawa International Airport (YOW) Drone Detection Pilot Project. It detects drone flights both near YOW and much further afield.

        In advance of President Biden’s visit, The US Secret Service, as well as an advance team from Air Force One, visited YOW as part of advance preparations.

        The teams wanted to be briefed on airport security, including security measures for the skies and the airport grounds. That included learning about the capabilities of YOW’s Drone Detection Pilot Project – which has been accurately detecting drones at the airport and beyond for years. The program has gained significant media attention – including a cover story for WINGS magazine in 2022:

        Drone detection



        When the Secret Service and those involved with Air Force One visited YOW on an advance reconnaissance trip, one of the first questions asked was about drones.

        “They asked do we have a drone detection capability – and we were quite proud to tell them that we have probably the best at any airport in the country,” says Michael Beaudette, VP of Security, Emergency Management and Customer Transportation at YOW.

        “It provides us with situational awareness not only of the immediate area, but throughout the National Capital Region up to almost 40 kilometres.”

        Certain areas of Ottawa’s downtown core are designated restricted airspace because of the House of Commons, Embassies and other sensitive locations.

        “During his (Biden’s) visit we paid particular attention to anything flying near the Ottawa airport or downtown,” says Beaudette. “Law enforcement are aware of the capabilities we have. It’s a good partnership and we were happy to be able to give something back to the police and intelligence services.”



        InDro provides core technology for the drone detection system. Other technology partners include Accipiter Radar, Aerial Armor and Skycope – a Canadian firm whose tech includes a database of unique RF signatures emitted by multiple brands of drones. NAV Canada is part of the project, and Transport Canada is kept in the loop on the data generated by the operation.

        The effectiveness of the system was proven during the massive convoy protest in downtown Ottawa early in 2022. It detected multiple flights of drones in restricted airspace where UAVs are not permitted to fly. Those detections were covered by the Ottawa Citizen.

        Below: Some of the data captured during the 2022 convoy protest in Ottawa. A wealth of data on illegal drone flights was captured:

        Drone Detection



        The system runs 24/7, and is capable of triggering an alert whenever a drone intrusion is detected. In mid-March, 2023, a week prior to the US President’s visit, the system indicated an attempted drone intrusion on airport property.

        “The alarms went off and they were tracking it – but because of the geofence around the airport, the pilot couldn’t get control of the drone and put it back down again and departed airport property,” says Beaudette.

        “That one’s in our investigations right now. Anything that happens a week out from the visit we look at it very closely. Is it someone doing a rehearsal to detect weak points? Is it a plane enthusiast having a look? Someone who bought a new drone at Costco and decided to try it out? While it’s a little more challenging because the individual left, we did get a license plate and we’re now just connecting the dots.”




        That’s not the only recent intrusion. In December of 2022, there was a much more serious incident.

        A pilot popped up a drone directly in the vicinity of YOW runways, flying within a couple of hundred feet of where planes were landing. It was also a larger drone, which would have almost certainly caused damage were there a collision with crewed aircraft.

        The system was capable of not only detecting the drone, but pinpointing the location of the pilot. Law enforcement was immediately dispatched, and the pilot was caught in the act.

        Wary of recent global incidents, authorities at YOW kept a very close watch during the US Presidential visit:

        “We’ve seen a lot of incidents where drones can pose a significant threat, and certainly the war in Ukraine has advanced the offensive nature of drone use considerably,” says Beaudette. “There’s also recent footage of drone infiltration into Russian military installations where they were able to land a drone on top of an aircraft undetected. So you really have to have the capability to detect and respond to those threats.”

        While the system does not have mitigation capabilities at this point (jamming RF frequencies is very complex under Canadian regulations except in extraordinary circumstances), the system is highly capable of real-time drone detection and identification, as well as pinpointing the position of the operator.

        Below: Michael Beaudette, VP of Security, Emergency Management and Customer Transportation at the Ottawa International Airport, during an interview with Scott Simmie


        Drone Detection


        The system did detect some drone activity in the National Capital Region during President Biden’s visit, but nothing that was deemed to pose a threat.

        Below: President Biden meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau March 23, 2023. Image via Prime Minister Trudeau’s Twitter account:

        President Biden


        President Biden, along with his aides and a media contingent, departed YOW the evening of March 24.

        No drone flights were detected at the Ottawa International Airport during the visit.

        “There’s been nothing that looks like it’s targeting the airport or wanting to get a look at Air Force One,” said Beaudette at the close of the Presidential trip.

        Below: File photo of US President Joe Biden boarding Air Force One.

        President Joe Biden

        INDRO’S TAKE

        InDro was, obviously, pleased there were no drone incursions at YOW during the visit by the US President. But it’s nice to know there was a system in place that could have detected any drone flights during this important visit.

        “The Drone Detection Pilot Project has proven its worth since its inception,” says InDro Robotics CEO Philip Reece. “Getting no detections and being assured there’s no potential threat is just as valuable as identifying incursions – especially during a high-security event such as this.

        “We’re proud of this ongoing project and our partnership with YOW, NAV Canada, and our technology partners Accipiter, Aerial Armor and Skycope. We believe this has proven to be an effective model, and one that could be deployed with confidence at other major airports or sensitive facilities.”

        Reports are generated on a monthly basis by the YOW drone detection system; we’ll be sure to update you when news warrants. And speaking of that, we issued a news release on this as well. You can download it here.


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        305, 31 Bastion Square,
        Victoria, BC, V8W 1J1

        P: 1-844-GOINDRO

        E: Info@InDroRobotics.com

        copyright 2022 © InDro Robotics all rights reserved

        YOW drone detection program featured in WINGS magazine

        YOW drone detection program featured in WINGS magazine

        The Drone Detection Pilot Project being carried out at the Ottawa International Airport has received some traction in WINGS Magazine, Canada’s leading online and print publication about the aviation world.

        InDro Robotics is one of the partners in the project at YOW, supplying hardware and software used to detect drones that might pose a threat to passenger, private and cargo aircraft using the airport. The program has gathered a lot of valuable data since it began in the fall of 2019.

        But what it gathered during the anti-vaccine mandate protests in Ottawa in February of 2022 really raised some eyebrows. Drones were detected flying in a restricted flight zone over Parliament Hill and elsewhere in the downtown Ottawa core, with a spike during police operations to clear the protests.

        A total of 27 different drones carried out 59 flights over a period of four days. Of those, 25 flights exceeded 400’ above ground level (Transport Canada’s limit, except in special circumstances). Eleven flights took place during hours of darkness – though that’s not a violation of regulations providing the drone is using lights that allow the pilot to maintain Visual Line of Sight and orientation.

        Nonetheless, these flights all took place in restricted airspace. A small number were carried out by law enforcement, but the vast majority were not. As you’ll see in the following graphic, 15 unique drone IDs were detected, and 25 of the 59 flights were carried out above 400 feet (including one at 1583′ AGL).

        Drone Detection

        Wake-up call


        Our initial story about this caused quite a stir, including this article in the Ottawa Citizen – along with attention from Canadian airports that do not currently have drone detection programs. And now, WINGS Magazine has picked it up.

        The article appears in the May/June Digital Edition, which is also a print edition.

        Drone detection

        Drone detection, made simple


        The system in place at YOW includes a micro-Doppler radar, capable of detecting the movement of small drone propellors at close range. It also features a sophisticated antennae array, which has been picking up flights as far as 40-50 kilometres from the airport.

        The system is automated – and the data is banked. If a drone poses an immediate threat to a flight path, an alert is sounded and airport authorities can quickly respond.

        You can read the story that appears in WINGS Magazine here. We’d also like to thank editor Jon Robinson for picking this up.

        InDro’s take


        We’ve pleased to be an integral part of the YOW Drone Detection Pilot Project. The results have been greater than we all anticipated, with highly granular data that has helped YOW educate drone pilots and also prepare an airport protocol for those rare but critical occasions when RPAS flights have the potential to impinge on the safety of crewed aircraft. The system provides enough advance warning that aircraft pilots can be given a heads-up and instructions to minimise any conflict with drones; the system is also capable of identifying the location of the RPAS pilot.

        Monthly data is shared with program partners and has generated interest from other Canadian airports. The data detected during the Ottawa protests has also attracted the interest of those responsible for the safety of Parliament Hill and other critical buildings in the downtown Ottawa core.

        For more information on how a drone detection system might benefit your airport or critical infrastructure, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

        YOW drone detection program reveals surprising data during final days of Ottawa protests

        YOW drone detection program reveals surprising data during final days of Ottawa protests

        By Scott Simmie, InDro Robotics


        Scores of drone flights took place in restricted airspace – what you might think of as a ‘No-Fly Zone’ – over Parliament Hill in Ottawa during the police operation to clear anti-vaccine mandate protests in February of 2022. While some of those flights were carried out by law enforcement, most flights were illegal and in violation of Transport Canada regulations.  

        Data collected by the Ottawa International Airport Authority’s (YOW) Drone Detection Pilot Project reveals an incredible spike in flights – a total of 59 – during the days when police were actively clearing protestors from the site. 

        “In an average month, you’d probably see half a dozen flights (in that same area),” says Michael Beaudette, Ottawa International Airport’s Vice President for Security, Emergency Management and Customer Transportation.  

        A total of 27 different drones carried out those 59 flights over a period of four days. Of those, 25 flights exceeded 400’ above ground level (Transport Canada’s limit, except in special circumstances), with some flying more than 1500’ AGL. Eleven flights took place during hours of darkness at night – though that’s not a violation of regulations providing the drone is using lights that allow the pilot to maintain Visual Line of Sight and orientation.  

        While a number of those flights were likely curious hobbyists either ignorant of or willfully ignoring regulations, it’s believed at least some were likely piloted by protestors or supporters seeking to gain intelligence of police movements. 

        “The majority of those drones were not police or First Responder drones,” says Beaudette. “Some of them could have been looky-loos – just trying to see – or it could have been people wanting to know where the police were forming up.” 

        Drone Detection

        Drone flights, with identifying data redacted, via YOW 


        Restricted airspace


        The airspace above Parliament Hill (as well as 24 Sussex Drive and Rideau Hall) is restricted to all aircraft – crewed and uncrewed – unless special authorization is obtained. In terms of drones, only law enforcement or other First Responders would have legal permission to fly except in special circumstances. 

        The data was obtained by Ottawa International Airport as part of a broader pilot project aimed at understanding drone traffic in proximity of the airport and developing protocols for aviation safety in the drone era. InDro Robotics is one of the partners in this project, providing key technology used in drone detection. Transport Canada regulations prohibit the operation of small RPAS within 5.6 kilometres of airports and 1.9 kilometres from helipads, except for pilots holding an advanced certification. Airspace permission is also required. (Drones weighing less than 250 grams are a different case, and we’ll touch on that shortly.)

        How the drones were detected 


        The airport uses two different types of technology for drone detection. The first is a micro-Doppler Radar in conjunction with an automated camera. The system, called Obsidian, comes from the British firm QinetiQ. Its high frequency (9-12 GHz) radar can detect the spinning of propellers on a drone anywhere within a two-kilometre range of the airport. Once detected, a camera automatically zeros in on the drone.  

        You can get a good sense of how the system works via this QinetiQ video: 

        The second system has been supplied for the trials free of charge by InDro Robotics. It’s capable of capturing data from drones manufactured by DJI, which account for approximately 75 per cent of all consumer drones.  

        “Our system electronically ‘interrogates’ each device within its range,” explains InDro CEO Philip Reece. “We can triangulate the drone’s position – and on many models we’re able to also detect the type and serial number of the drone, its takeoff point, flight path, current GPS position and altitude. In addition, we can see where the pilot associated with that drone is located. With this data, YOW can quickly determine whether or not a given drone poses a threat to civil aviation.”

        The system was intended to pick up any flights within a 15-kilometre radius of YOW. In practice, however, its range has been far greater. 

        “When we turned it on, we realized our expectations were far exceeded,” says YOW’s Michael Beaudette. “We were getting hits 40 kilometres plus. It’s really done the heavy lifting for the drone detection project. You can identify where the pilot is, where the drone is, and where they are in real time within 15 or 20 seconds.” 

        Data collected during the police operation to clear the protest reveals the bulk of the flights were carried out by DJI Mini 2 drones – very small machines that weigh just under 250 grams and which do not require a Transport Canada Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Certificate to operate. Microdrones like these are not prohibited from operation near airports or in controlled airspace if operated safely, but cannot gain access to the restricted airspace near Parliament without prior permission.

        Drone Detection

        A controversial catalyst


        So. What started this project? 

        The 2018 Gatwick Airport drone incident prompted many airports to take a closer look at the potential threat posed by drones. About 1000 flights were cancelled between December 19 and 21 following reports of two drones being sighted near the runway. Some 140,000 passengers were affected, with a huge economic impact. 

        The incident remains controversial, because there was never any clear physical evidence that drones had indeed posed a threat. Two people were wrongfully charged, released, and later received a settlement. 

        What cannot be denied, however, is that the highly disruptive incident was a massive wake-up call to airports worldwide. With an ever-growing number of drones in the air, the question of drone detection and potential mitigation became a pressing topic. If a drone detection system had been in place at Gatwick back then, it would have had concrete data as to whether there was truly a drone threat or not. 

        A Blue Ribbon Task Force was launched by the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) in conjunction with regulators and airport representatives. YOW President and CEO Mark Laroche was a member of the Task Force along with representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NAV Canada. (Its final report can be found here.) 

        Gatwick, then, was the catalyst that prompted YOW to start taking a very deep look at the issue. 

        Below: Gatwick Airport. Image by Mike McBey via Wikimedia Commons

        Gatwick Airport

        “We wanted to be able to help shape a national drone response protocol for airports, so that we didn’t run into a situation like Gatwick, where we would have to shut down,” says Beaudette. “We didn’t even know if it’s a problem. We had to get some baseline data, some situational awareness.  So we (decided to) focus on drone detection…to identify if it was even a threat.” 

        DJI, to its credit, has geofencing software that prevents its products from taking off in the immediate vicinity of major airports unless the pilot confirms on the app they have permission to do so. And while that’s useful, the geofencing is highly localized and cannot always prevent a pilot from putting a drone into the takeoff or landing path of an aircraft. 

        “What causes us concern is when they’re in the flight path,” says Beaudette. 

        In the fall of 2019, YOW began its pilot project. A news release made the project public in June of 2021, quoting Michael Beaudette as saying: “As an airport operator, we felt it was vitally important that we test systems to detect drones operating on flight paths, near the airport and in other restricted zones to help ensure the safety of air crews and passengers.” 

        Surprising data

        With the InDro and QinetiQ systems up and running, the data started coming in. It was something of a shock. 

        “This opened our eyes,” says Beaudette. “We had no idea of the drone activity that was taking place.” 

        There were a lot of drone flights taking place close to YOW.  

        “In March of 2021, our program detected and reported on 101 drone flights within that 5.6-kilometre radius,” said CEO Mark Laroche in a news release. “April’s numbers were even higher at 167. A number of these were flown during hours of darkness and some exceeding altitudes of 1,600 feet.” 

        Every month, YOW crunches the data into a comprehensive report sent to Transport Canada, NAV Canada, InDro Robotics and other stakeholders. The report from May of 2021 reveals a steep increase in the number of flights.  

        Drone detection

        The rapid increase was due to warmer weather and the increasing popularity of sub-250 gram drones, which are both more affordable and do not require an RPAS Certificate or registration. Here’s a breakdown of the top 30 drone models detected within a 15-kilometre radius during that same month: 

        Drone Detection

        The monthly report from this period states: “Detecting and identifying ‘drones of concern’ operating in the vicinity of the Ottawa Airport remains one of our primary objectives. This month, there were 19 such drones of concern within the YOW 5.6 km zone. These include drones that flew during hours of darkness, or were over 250 grams and flew over 400 ft. Of these 19 flights, there were 11 unique Drone IDs.” 

        Because the system can capture drones from even farther afield, other interesting data has emerged during the course of the pilot project. 

        “We started tracking other locations – Parliament Hill, Gatineau Airport,” says Beaudette. “And we were very surprised to see drones flying at all hours of the day and night and at high altitudes.” 

        These weren’t just hobby flights. Unusual activity was detected around certain embassies in Ottawa, with the same drones making repeated trips. There were drones flying close to the CHEO and Civic hospital Helipads used by helicopters with the air ambulance service Ornge. There were drones apparently peering into high-rise windows, Peeping-Tom style, and others that appeared to be involved with offering intelligence to people carrying out Break & Enters. (Beaudette says police were notified in some of these instances.) 

        As part of the Pilot Project, YOW worked with its partners – including NAV Canada, Transport Canada and InDro Robotics – for some real-world exercises. One such test involved determining the accuracy of the detection system. A drone was flown (with all appropriate permissions) from the E.Y. Centre, a massive exhibition/convention facility very close to the airport. When the data captured by the detection system was overlaid with the actual flight log, they were identical. Not only that, but the YOW data precisely identified the location of the pilot. 

        “We could actually tell which stall in the parking lot (the pilot was standing in),” says Beaudette. 



        Detection is one thing, but drone mitigation is quite something else. There are systems capable of jamming the Command and Control signal between the drone and the controller (including systems from Bravo Zulu Secure part of the InDro group of companies. Here’s a quick overview of how these systems work. 

        But such systems are not in cards for YOW or other airports in Canada. Quite simply, Transport Canada and Industry Canada (which regulates radio spectrum frequencies) prohibit them in this country except in extraordinary circumstances. 

        “First and foremost, a drone – like any other airplane – is considered an aircraft,” says Beaudette. “And so Transport Canada has restrictions: Nobody has the authority to interfere with the flight of that aircraft. So you won’t see airports with jammers or other kinetic solutions to that unless they have the proper authority.” 

        Plus, he emphasizes, the Drone Detection Pilot Project is focused on drone detection. It’s a data-gathering exercise to help formulate protocols, provide useful information for regulators, and alert airport authorities immediately if a drone poses a threat to a flight path. YOW is not the drone police; its primary interest is in ensuring the safety of aircraft using the facility.  

        “If we can detect something, we may be able to mitigate it by rerouting aircraft, delaying aircraft, or we can locate the pilot,” says Beaudette. 

        Thankfully, despite many flights violating the 5.6 kilometre radius, YOW has not encountered a drone that posed a serious threat since the program began. Should that occur, it does have protocols in place to ensure civil aviation safety. Plus, of course, Transport Canada has the option of imposing heavy fines on pilots who put aircraft at risk or are flying without a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Certificate. And with the detection system in place, locating an offending pilot would not be difficult. 

        Know the regs

        Ultimately, the biggest piece of the puzzle is around education. Some pilots simply don’t know the rules and unwittingly violate them – an excuse that won’t help them much if facing a fine. YOW has found, for example, that pilots often fly from nearby neighborhoods or golf courses without realizing they’re impinging on that 5.6 kilometre zone.  

        There’s also the issue of confusion around piloting sub-250 gram drones. Because they do not require an RPAS certificate or registration, many believe the rules somehow don’t apply to them. Yet the over-arching meaning of the regulations is clear: They must not be flown in an unsafe manner. And that includes near airports. 

        “We actually had a case where we found a drone that crash-landed inside the (airport) fence,” says Beaudette. 

        “We’re still the proud owners of that drone.” 

        InDro’s take

        Several members of the InDro Robotics team – including our CEO – have expertise as private and commercial pilots. As a result, we have perhaps a heightened awareness of the potential risk drones can cause if they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Drone detection at airports and other sensitive facilities is critical, and the deep data collected by YOW reflects that.

        We’re proud to be part of the YOW Drone Detection Pilot Project and look forward to assisting others with drone detection and even mitigation, where appropriate. If you’re interested in exploring such a system, we’d be happy to help.