The Red Deer man whose drone was seized by RCMP after flying near a STARS helicopter last month has issued a video apology.
“This is my formal apology to everybody out there,” said Jeff Wood in a video posted to his YouTube account. “My actions were actually illegal. I wasn’t aware of that — not that that’s any excuse — but I just wanted to put an apology out here first for the drone community, for the citizens of Red Deer, for anybody that I could have hurt potentially with my drone.
“I’m sorry and I didn’t mean to put anybody in harm’s way.”
RCMP said a drone was seized March 30 after it was spotted flying near a STARS Air Ambulance helicopter as it approached the Red Deer Regional Hospital. Officers were able to find the owner of the foldable Mavic Pro drone shortly after 9:30 a.m.
On Wednesday, RCMP confirmed Wood was the man they seized the drone from last month. However, they stressed no charges have been laid against him. RCMP continue to investigate.
In his YouTube video, Wood shares his perspective of what happened that day. He said he had his drone on the sidewalk and flew it between the two tallest buildings in Red Deer: the BDO and Stantec towers.
“I heard the helicopter. Right away, I was like, ‘Those are helicopter blades. This is bad. I’ve got to get out of here.’
“The first thing I do is just spin my drone around 360 a couple of times just to see… is there a helicopter anywhere near the drone? I don’t see anything on my screen.”
Wood said it was unlikely the drone was directly in the path of the helicopter since he was probably level with the tallest buildings in the area. He believes the drone was in the area of the STARS helicopter.
“I decided I had to bring my drone in right away but there was a problem.”
Wood said he didn’t want to use the return-to-home-and land function since it wouldn’t give him manual control. Instead, he chose the tap-to-fly mode before disabling that and landing the drone. He said the total flight was between four and five minutes long.
“As soon as I noticed there was a helicopter, I immediately landed my drone,” Wood said. “Of course I would never want to interrupt the STARS helicopter or cause any sort of loss of life or hurt anybody.”
STARS said the incident did not impact the flight of its helicopter.
“I hope that you guys can understand in my attempts to get a quick intro shot for my vlog, I definitely made a mistake,” Wood said.
“I’m now very aware of the drone laws and exactly how it works and so I’m not going to be doing that again.”
He said he provided all this information to police in a statement. Wood said RCMP also have the drone and the footage.
On March 16, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau unveiled new restrictions to curb the number of incidents in which recreational drones have come too close to planes. The new rules are an interim measure until formal regulations are enacted, likely in June.
“Violation of drone flight rules could put lives, aircraft and property at risk, and could result in fines of up to $3,000 for recreational use,” RCMP said.
“I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” Wood said near the end of his video, his voice breaking.
“Making a mistake is an opportunity to learn.”
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc