Insp. Tina Maier speaks Monday at OPP General Headquarters in Orillia during the launch of Snowmobile Safety Week

The Ontario Provincial Police  is now utilizing drones and aircraft to enforce safe snowmobiling after a spike in fatalities last year and a half-dozen deaths already this winter. Provincial police are “dismayed by the recurring causal factors in snowmobiler deaths, most notably, those that stem from snowmobilers travelling on unsafe ice again this season,”

Officials with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) and the Ministry of Transportation gathered Monday at OPP General Headquarters in Orillia to launch Snowmobile Safety Week.

CTV News/Rob Cooper

They issued both a plea and a warning. The plea: Drive safely. The warning: Eyes in the sky are watching.

The OPP will use its “unmanned aerial systems,” including drones, to help with investigations and to spot unsafe snowmobiling. The force’s helicopters will also be used to monitor the trails, equipped with relatively new camera systems to help officers detect speeding and other dangerous activity.

Six snowmobilers have died this sledding season and half of them were travelling on unsafe ice, the OPP pointed out. Two went through the ice and a third drove into open water. Speed, driving too fast for the conditions and alcohol or drugs were factors in the other three fatal incidents.

During the 2017-18 season, three of 14 snowmobilers who died were also travelling on unsafe ice when they drove into open water. Alcohol/drugs were linked to six of last season’s fatalities and speed played a role in five of the deaths.

In an effort to enhance snowmobile safety, the OPP is now using aviation and unmanned aerial systems (UAS, or drones) to reach remote areas and crack down on dangerous sledding.

“Aviation support is an effective tool in a number of situations, such as speed enforcement, search and rescue and detecting dangerous snowmobile operation,” the OPP said. “UAS support is a valuable resource at snowmobile collision scenes and for accessing locations that are inaccessible by other means.”

The use of OPP aviation and UAS support demonstrates “our latest efforts to keep snowmobile communities safe,” said Brad Blair, provincial commander for traffic safety and operational support.

“Despite our commitment to saving lives, our use of innovative technology and our valued partnership with the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, it is not enough,” he said. “We need all snowmobilers to understand that regardless of where they are riding, the only safe ride is a risk-free ride.”

OFSC director Ryan Eickmeier commended the OPP for “their continued dedication to ensuring our trails remain safe for riders of all experience levels,” while stressing safety is a “shared responsibility” and riders should always be cautious when travelling on ice. “Travel on staked trails, and check the Interactive Trail Guide before you go,” Eickmeier advised.

“We’ve had some brutal cold over the last few days, but still, no ice is safe ice,” said Sgt. Kerry Schmidt.

Riders are urged to check the status of trails before venturing out. The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs opened nearly 14,000 kms of trails in the north on Monday morning.  However, the lack of any significant snowfall has prevented local trails from opening. A map showing trail conditions across the province can be found at

Sledders should also be aware that new mandatory alcohol screening laws apply to drivers of all motor vehicles, including snowmobiles.

Snowmobile Safety Week runs from January 19 to 27.

Top Photo: Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters

Sources: Sudbury Star; Orillia Matters; CTV News

UAV DACH: Beitrag im Original auf, mit freundlicher Genehmigung von UAS Vision automatisch importiert, Der Beitrag gibt nicht unbedingt die Meinung oder Position des UAV DACH e.V. wieder. Das Original ist in englischer Sprache.