Of all the aviation governing authorities, the Canadians probably have one of the most practical and easy-to-understand legislation structures developed for the drone industry. It provides for a lot if implied freedom to the law abiding drone flying citizen, whilst maintaining safety boundaries.
The Transport Canada Civil Aviation authority (TCCA) does regular reviews and published the New Drone Regulations Canada effective June 1, 2019. The Canadian drone laws were adjusted in harmony with the global need for better control of drone flying. Amongst others, the UK promptly enlarged their airport buffer zones after the December 2018 events at Gatwick Airport. Drones flying in the vicinity of the airport caused havoc and the closure of the airport. The damage to lost income amounted to 100’s of millions of GBP.
In this article both the former and new rules will be explained.
SECTION A: Rules Applying Until May 31, 2019
Q: Are there areas where drones are not to be flown?
A: For sure. These are called “No Drone Zones” and include aerodromes, national parks, border crossings and busy, populated areas.
Q: When do the rules apply?
A: These rules apply when drones weighing between 250g and 35kg are flown for recreational purposes. Drone flights at a field or event approved by the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada are excluded.
Q: Are there any height limits?
A: Yes, you are restricted to fly below 90m (300ft).
Q: Can I fly anywhere I want?
A: No. For a drone weighing:
- 250g – 1kg, remain at least 30m (100’) clear of people, vehicles and vessels;
- 1kg – 35kg, remain at least 76m (250ft) clear of people, vehicles and vessels, and
For all drones, fly:
- Not closer than 5.6km (3nm) from aerodromes and other places where aircraft take-off and land
- Not closer than 1.9km (1nm) from heliports
- Outside of controlled or restricted airspace
- More than 9km (5nm) from a natural hazard or disaster area
- Not in the vicinity of police operation or first responders
- In daytime only, and clear of clouds
- So that you remain within visual contact with your drone at all times
- Not further than 500 metres (1640 feet) of yourself
- Only if your drone is clearly marked with your name, address and telephone number
Q: Where can I find help in selecting a safe area to fly in legally?
A: Click to navigate to a handy interactive site selector distributed by the National Research Council Canada. It will make the job of selecting a site much easier!
Q: Which rules apply when I fly for work, or with drones weighing more than 35kg when fully equipped?
A: You have to obtain a Special Flight Operations certificate from TCCA. This certificate is specific to the circumstances of your application and certain exemptions may apply to drones weighing less than 25kg.
Q: Can I get in trouble if not following the above rules?
A: Absolutely, yes. Serious fines apply. Leisure drone flyers can be fined up to $3,000 for a transgression, and fines for the professional drone environment may extend up to $25000.
SECTION B: Rules Applying After 1 June 2019
The law upgrade attempted to create better awareness and accountability amongst drone pilots, which led to the introduction of a certification programme for both pilots and vehicles. This is now mandated by the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) Part IX – Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.
The first thing to understand is that the new drone regulations Canada are much different from the old set of rules since the structure has been changed as per below:
Q: The new Part IX regulatory structure refers to “Basic Operations” and “Advanced Operations”. What do these mean?
A: To be classified as a Basic Operation, your drone should meet all of these requirements:
- You fly it in uncontrolled airspace, and
- You fly it more than 30 metres (100 feet) horizontally from bystanders, and
- You never fly it over bystanders
If any 1 of these criteria is not satisfied, yours would be an Advanced Operation.
Q: Ok, I just want to practise my skills, conforming with the “Basic Operation” criteria. Can I go now?
A: Unfortunately not. Firstly, your drone has to be registered with the authorities (click to do this) which would cost you $5. The registration number must be affixed to your drone. You also need to pass a small online knowledge exam costing $15, which may require some prestudy of the new rules. Study material can be found here, but TCCA recommend attending a training course with a flight school.
Q: There may be other people at the park that I plan to fly from, thus making my drone flight an Advanced Operation. Do I also have to pass an online exam to do this?
A: Yes, you do. In fact, if ANY of the following criteria apply, your operation would fall into the “Advanced Operations” category and you will have to take the corresponding “Small Advanced Exam” (click for access):
- You want to fly in controlled airspace
- You want to fly over bystanders
- You want to fly within 30 metres (100 feet) of bystanders (measured horizontally)
Once you passed your exam, you also have to do a flight review with an examiner (“Flight Reviewer”). Your local flight school would be able to provide more information.
Q: Once completed, what do I do with my flight certificate?
A: Keep it with you when flying your drone, as you must be able to produce it on request from an official.
Q: I have a toy drone weighing 210g with battery and camera fitted. Do I have to conform with all these rules?
A: Microdrones below 250g are excluded from the Part IX rules. However, you still have to fly it away from aircraft and airports, taking the safety of other people, aircraft and property into account.
Q: What about operations with drones over 25kg, or when the drone weighs less than 25kg but the rules would be exceeded?
A: A Special Flight Operations Certificate needs to be obtained (click to apply).
A handy summary is given in the schematic below which might help to make this whole lot more understandable. And please DO comment on this presentation format– we were trying to present the complex New Drone Regulations Canada in the most simplistic manner available!