SFOC Article Index

indexOver the past year or more we have written numerous articles on the topic of SFOCs and the commercial UAV regulations in Canada.  To help readers more easily find these articles we have put together the following index of the more popular items:

A good place to start is with the following which provide an overview of the SFOC process and what is needed to legally operate a UAV commercially in Canada:

The following articles provide templates and checklists that some of the Transport Canada regions have been using as part of their application process:

The following provide a detailed breakdown of working through the SFOC application process:

The following outline best practices that Nav Canada have been developing for some of the flight information regions:

In addition be sure to check the SFOC category of the blog for the full list of related articles – https://blog.flitelab.com/category/sfoc/ 

In addition to the free information provided in the articles listed above and throughout the blog, Flitelab also offers SFOC consulting services for a fee, contact us at info@flitelab.com for details.

Tips & Insights – Event/Festival Drone Use

One of the growing uses of UAVs/drones is to gather photos and videos of outdoor events and festivals. These platforms provide great ways to capture unique perspectives of large gatherings, with much more dynamic vantage points and reduced costs over full scale aerial services. However there are restrictions and requirements around how, when, and where they can be used safely.


The first key element in utilizing a drone in such a production is the need for the operator to hold a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC).  Even if the aerials are being done by the event organizers themselves or done for in kind exchange instead of payment, it is considered commercial use and must meet the associated regulations set in place by Transport Canada. Nonprofit events also fall into this area.  Basically if it’s not a 100% recreational use then an SFOC will be needed.

Also be sure to check that the operator’s SFOC conditions meet your needs.  Not all operators for example can fly at night, or may be restricted to specific altitudes and limited airspace.  Not all SFOCs are the same so you cannot assume every operator is under the same restrictions.

Secondly the operator must have UAV specific liability insurance to operate under the SFOC.  General liability insurance typically does not cover aircraft use so a specific aviation policy is needed.  Make sure the coverage amount also meets your requirements, there is a wide range in coverage from the bare minimum Transport Canada requires of $100,000 up to $10 million or more.  Some properties may have minimum coverage requirements to access their sites.

If the drone provider does not have proper insurance or operates without an SFOC the event organizer may be held accountable for damages in the event an accident happens.

The following provides a list of the more common restrictions for flying near public gatherings, request can be made for variations from these but most often the following are what Transport Canada will require:

  • Must maintain 100′ horizontal distance from people/public not directly part of the event crew/staff.
  • Cannot overfly crowds of people.
  • Must maintain visual line of site between the drone and operator at all times.
  • Where the event is within controlled airspace, or near an airport/helipad, coordination with local air traffic control and facility managers may be required.

For events held on public lands, such as city/provincial/public parks, there may be additional bylaws and requirements that must be addressed as well for the use of drones on these properties. This may require the property owners to be named on the insurance policy as well. Always check with the property owner/manager for clearance and permission.

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It should also be noted that even for indoor public events an SFOC is still required, once it is no longer a closed set/controlled environment then the same restrictions and requirements as outdoor use applies.

The key element when dealing with events with large numbers of public in attendance is safety. Precautions must be taken to ensure the takeoff/landing areas are secure and managed and emergency procedures are in place.

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The other larger factor over which no one has control is weather and is a unfortunate reality when dealing with outdoor events and drone operation. Most UAVs are limited to clear weather and within specific wind limits. It should always be taken into consideration that the drone may not be able to always fly, so it should be treated as a secondary element with alternative backups since there rarely is opportunity to reschedule for such live events.

With live event coverage timing is everything, so having a defined schedule of key elements to be covered from the air is critical. You don’t want to miss the key focus of the event by being unprepared to fly. Be sure to review the schedule with your provider and note the key times and items of focus.

The drone also should not be a distraction from the event, it is there to enhance coverage and not become the show itself. Larger systems can be noisy and also distract the attendance. Proper planning for the flight paths, distance, and altitudes can help ensure they minimize this impact.

Unfortunately many unauthorized drones end up at large events, so knowing who is and isn’t approved can help reduce headaches. Make all staff, officials, and law enforcement aware that a drone will be in use.  Performers should be informed as to when and where the aircraft will be flown so they are not distracted and can express any concerns it may have with their performance.  Notifications/signage indicating drones will be in use at the event can also go a a long way to reduce concerns to attendees.  The more informed all involved are the less chance for last minute concern when a drone appears hovering over the event.

With proper planning with a professional, skilled operator drones can offer a great new way to enhance outdoor events.fundy-concert.jpg

Flitelab offers drone based aerial media services and has covered numerous outdoor events such as the Bluenose Marathon, Hockeyday Canada, Serene Ryder Quietest Concert Ever.

Contact us for details on what we can do to make your next event a success and take things to a higher level with unique drone based perspectives.

No Drone Zone Clarification from Transport Canada

Back in mid June Transport Canada announced a new #nodronezone campaign around drones and use near airports. With that came much confusion around the underlying regulations and what was an actual offense.  For clarification we reached out to Transport Canada and received the following reply last week.  As has been previously mentioned there was no change in the actual regulations and the #nodronezone is a guideline only, 9KM distance to an aerodrome is not a violation in and of itself.

Thank you for contacting the Transport Canada Civil Aviation Communications Centre.

In regards to your inquiry, please find the response below.

Recreational Activities

Operating a model aircraft (recreational drone) within 9km of an aerodrome would be a violation of CAR 602.45 if the aircraft was being operated in a manner that is hazardous to aviation safety. The 9km (5nm) guideline is provided as guidance on how a recreational user of an unmanned aircraft (a model aircraft by definition) can comply with section 602.45 of the CARs which governs the operation of model aircraft. This regulation states “No person shall fly a model aircraft or a kite or launch a model rocket or a rocket of a type used in a fireworks display into cloud or in a manner that is or is likely to be hazardous to aviation safety”. The guidelines were provided to help those that are less familiar with aviation with how to operate their aircraft in a safe manner. This will keep these aircraft out of most control zones and away from concentrations of manned aircraft. As stated, the 9km (5nm) direction is only guidelines and not a regulations.

Another option, besides our guidelines, would be for such users to operate under a set of community based safety practices such as those provided by the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC) which represents model aircraft enthusiast across Canada.

Non-recreational Activities

For those using an unmanned air vehicle (UAV), where an unmanned aircraft is being used for any non-recreational purpose (academia, first responders, commercial, media, etc), the regulatory requirement is that those operators must apply for and obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada prior to operating. An application for an SFOC is reviewed on a case-by-case basis to ensure the applicable risks are mitigated and a stringent set of conditions are mandated to ensure the operation can be conducted safely. These conditions are created to ensure the safety of other airspace users and people/property on the ground. Some of the conditions that would be required to protect other airspace users would include, for example, minimum distances from airports, maximum permitted altitudes, approved Classes of airspace, communication/coordination requirements with ATC, emergency procedures, etc. Additionally, UAV SFOCs contain conditions that require that the UAV to remain within Visual Line-of-Sight of the UAV pilot/visual observer, requiring the UAV pilot /visual observer to be able to see not only their aircraft but the airspace surrounding the UAV, and that the UAV always give way to all other aircraft.

One exception to the SFOC requirement stated above, would be the UAV Exemptions Transport Canada provided in late 2014. These exemptions permit certain lower-risk UAV operations, such as those conducted in rural areas, to be conducted without an SFOC. The exemption is only valid in areas that are 5nm (9km) from built-up areas (i.e. cities, towns, villages, etc), 5nm (9km) from any aerodrome (i.e. airport, heliport, helipad, seaplane base, etc) and in Class G airspace.

I trust that the foregoing has addressed your questions. Should you need other information on civil aviation matters, please feel free to contact us via email at services@tc.gc.ca

Again, thank you for writing.

Kind regards,

Program Information Officer / Agente d’information des programmes Transport Canada Civil Aviation Communications Centre/ Centre de communications de l’Aviation civile, Transports Canada
1 800 305-2059
Facsimile / Télécopieur 613-957-4208
TTY / ATS (613) 990-4500
Place de Ville (AARCB), Ottawa ON K1A 0N5 http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/air-menu.htm
Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada

Transport Canada Update to Stakeholders on Unmanned Air Vehicles

The following was released today by Transport Canada in conjunction with a presentation in Ottawa covering the proposed UAV regulations and changes since the NPA.

We will be reviewing this and providing feedback in the days ahead…

Dear Stakeholders,

Please find below an update on unmanned air vehicles.

Executive Summary
Update to Stakeholders on Unmanned Air Vehicles
June 2016

Following the consultation on the Notice of Proposed Amendment for small Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), weighing 25 kg or less and operated within visual line-of-sight, Transport Canada has been finalizing the policy and regulatory framework.

The Department is currently developing proposed regulations that are expected to be made public in the Canada Gazette, Part I in spring 2017. Stakeholders and Canadians will have the opportunity to provide comments as part of the consultation period.

For stakeholders who may not be familiar with the process for making regulations, regulations are pre-published in the Canada Gazette, Part I for a formal comment period. Adjustments are made as required based on the comments received and the regulations are then published in the Canada Gazette, Part II and considered final. A transition period is normally provided prior to the coming into force of a new regulation. For more information about the Canada Gazette process: http://www.gazette.gc.ca/cg-gc/lm-sp-eng.html.

At this time, the regulatory exemptions (exemption for under 2 kg / exemption for 2 kg to 25 kg) remain valid and will be updated prior to their current expiry date of December 16, 2016. For those that cannot meet the conditions of the exemptions, until such time as the final regulations are published, you can apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate.

Transport Canada continues to seek a balanced and risk-based approach to both safely integrate UAVs into Canadian airspace and encourage innovation within this important new subsector of civil aviation.
Here are some highlights of the updated proposed policy and regulatory framework based on feedback received from stakeholders on the Notice of Proposed Amendment, industry growth, risk analysis and, where possible, discussions with international partners.
• Removing the regulatory distinction between recreational and non-recreational users.
• Exclusion to be made for modelling associations with robust safety guidelines. Introducing an “unregulated” category with a threshold of 250 g or less.
• Reducing the “very small” weight threshold to 1 kg based on a risk assessments, safety analysis and ongoing research.
• Marking and registration now for “small complex” only. Identification for other regulated categories.
• UAV Design Standard now for “small complex” only (higher risk environments).
• Pilot permit requirement for “small complex” UAVs. Knowledge requirements for “very small” and “small limited” UAVs commensurate to category.
• Adjusting minimum age requirements to mirror manned aviation licensing requirements.
• Regulating some tethered UAVs as obstacles and not regulating indoor operations.
• Requiring liability insurance for all categories of UAVs.

Transport Canada would like to reiterate that these are only proposed changes and are not yet currently in place. The formal consultation period along with the actual text of the proposed regulations will be communicated to all stakeholders for consultation when ready and published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, in spring 2017.

Thank you for your interest on this file.

UAV Controlled airspace notification procedures – Moncton FIR

Yet another update today from Nav Canada on UAV notification procedures for flights in controlled airspace:

The reason I am sending this to you is that at one time in the past you or your company has contacted us in NAV CANADA in regards to UAV operations within the Moncton Flight Information Region (FIR).  For those not familiar with the term FIR, our area of responsibility covers all of the Maritime Provinces (NS, NB, and PE).

As part of the Special Flight Operating Certificate (SFOC) that was issued to you by Transport Canada (TC) any of your flights that operate within controlled airspace need to be coordinated with the Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) who is providing an Air Traffic Service (ATS) in that airspace – which is us at NAV CANADA.  In most cases this would be a control tower or a flight service station.  Along with these two areas of concern, operators such as yourselves need to be wary of operations next to uncontrolled aerodromes and known landing areas (eg/ heliports at hospitals).

In the past there has not been any set requirements or procedures you need to follow in these areas.  At times direct contact with a tower/airfield owner was made, for others there was a call to the Halifax Flight Information Centre (FIC) to file a Notice to airmen (NOTAM), and I hazard to guess that in some instances where some operators not knowing what to do… simply did their operation with no notification and by sheer luck nothing happened.

After talking with TC recently, in anticipation of a national standard, we have agreed on the following procedure for SFOC based UAV operations in controlled airspace within the Moncton FIR:

  1. Once a SFOC has been issued by TC, information will be provided on a central office of primary interest (OPI) for ATS – that would be me.  I can be contacted by any of the means below.  If I am not available callers can contact our Shift Manager (number will be on the phone message).
  2. I can provide airspace information to assist operators who may not be sure of the implications of their operations – if you are not sure if the airspace is controlled or not contact me and I will let you know.
  3. Once it has been determined that a flight will be in controlled airspace I will need to know the following information (via email):
    1. Contact name and phone number, if different than what will be place for the flight indicate what that will be.
    2. Date of flight
    3. Location of flight (latitude and longitude in whole degrees, minutes, and seconds – no decimals), a map indicating the position of the flight in reference to the closest aerodrome would be appreciated – Google Earth works great for this. This includes the area that will be covered, not just the centre point.
    4. Time/duration of the flight, if there is a break of more than an hour between flights I would need the different blocks.
    5. Maximum height of the flight(s), if there is a significant difference between flights (eg/ most at 50ft and one at 200ft) indicate the variance.
    6. A brief description of the UAV (large, small, amount of rotors, colour, etc) – this does not have to be too specific, this is what would be passed to a pilot (most probably do not know what a Phantom 3 looks like).
    7. An indication of the safety precautions you will have in place (eg/ spotter, VHF radio to monitor aircraft traffic, etc).
  4. This will all need to be provided AT LEAST 24 hours in advance of the flight (the earlier the better) between 8am and 4pm, Monday to Friday (except holidays).  Any notification outside these parameters will not be reviewed and as such any flights that take place will be in contravention of the SFOC.
  5. Once the information is received I will contact the agency responsible for the provision of ATS and determine what is required from their standpoint.  Based on the operation it may be deemed nonconsequential to their traffic and as long as normal precautions are followed the flight can proceed without further coordination, for others a call to the tower before and after the flight on the phone, for a small number if the operation is deemed to have a greater possibility to conflict with other traffic a NOTAM may need to be issued, or it may be deemed that for the time and position of the flight it cannot be granted.  In this last case further coordination will be needed to see if an alternate time can be found.
  6. If a NOTAM needs to be issued, this MUST be done by TC.  The practice of having operators request their own NOTAMs will no longer be possible.  In this case I will contact the operator and advise them to call TC and request a NOTAM. This is another reason why at least 24 hour notification is required.
  7. A register will be kept of all requests for statistical purposes.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns with this process.  Besides emphasizing safety and coordination it is hoped that by having a central OPI for airspace questions it will be easier on you the operators so that you do not have to guess on what to do.

If you are aware of any operator who may not be aware of this procedure please pass this on or advise me and I will try to get in touch with them.

Peter Hebert
Unit Procedures Specialist
Moncton Area Control Centre
222 Old Coach Road
Riverview, NB, E1B 4G2
(506) 867-7134 (work)
(506) 378-0517 (cell)
(506) 867 7170 – fax

No Drone Zone – Transport Canada’s Negative View on UAVs

Today Transport Canada and Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, kicked off a new campaign to address the growing concern over drones and aviation safety. While pushing drone safety forward is a positive, this particular event framed the entire UAV industry in a negative light and was little more than fear mongering on the potential for a major accident despite there not being any cases to date.

Mark Laroche, President and CEO, Ottawa International Airport Authority, went so far as to reference the recent incident in the UK of an apparent drone strike, that was unconfirmed and reported in many cases as being a plastic bag.

Daniel-Robert Gooch President, Canadian Airports Council used the term “growing threat” in relation to UAVs:

“We thank the government for recognizing the rapidly growing threat that UAVs pose to commercial aircraft near airports or in restricted airspace. Today’s announcement represents a positive step towards keeping Canada’s airspace safe and moving towards regulations to address this issue.”

While COPA had a voice for private pilots, in addition to Ottawa Police, and the Canadian Airports Council, the UAV industry and recreational users were not part of the press conference nor offered a time to give their take from safe and responsible drone users.

The main focus of the announcement was the introduction of “No Drone Zone” signage that will be put up at airports and available for event organizers and other areas that drones are not wanted.  Already the media is running with statements as fact such as “Currently, drones are not allowed to fly within nine kilometres of airports” when no regulation exists for such restrictions.  As we wrote about before, there is one law CAR 602.45 that regulates recreational model aircraft to not interfere with manned aviation, and commercial operators are allowed to fly in a variety of airspace with the proper SFOC and coordination.

We as an industry need a voice or we may well be regulated out of existence.  Misleading and fear mongering information such as that presented today makes our work harder when public and media question when and where we fly based on these new statements and signs.

While Canada promotes itself as a progressive leading UAV technology country it is clear that is not the case on all levels, and like many industries may end up with only the big players left in the game when the regulatory dust settles.  Today’s announcement only adds to that fear.

Regulated out of the Canadian UAV Business?

With the announcement of the upcoming new UAV regulations over a year ago in the NPA from Transport Canada there has been a lot of hope that the new rules will open things up in Canada for everyone.  However it seems many have overlooked a small but critical item within these proposed regulations that could effectively ground many of the UAVs currently in use by small/medium sized aerial service companies in Canada.

The key element in the new regulations is the requirement of UAVs in the two Small UAV classifications (Limited Operations & Complex Operations) to meet a Design Standard.  These two classes will be where most operators currently using Restricted Complex SFOCs will fall within the new system.

Meeting the Design Standard basically is the equivalent of being a “Compliant UAV” under existing regulations, which currently only a very small number of industrial systems are (Draganfly, Aeryon, Sensefly).


It is also proposed that manufacturers of a small UAV system be required to declare that the UAV system meets a design standard for UAV systems for this category

The intent of a design standard is to provide an increased level of assurance in the safety of the UAV system. If such a design standard is not published as part of the proposed rulemaking efforts, Transport Canada would need a more restrictive regulatory regime to mitigate the increased risk of operating UAVs, that have not been built to any safety standard, near or over persons and near other aviation activities.

Those that currently use systems such as those from DJI, 3DR, Freefly, or custom built UAVs could effectively be grounded unless the manufacturers choose to meet this design standard requirement.

Give the small size of the Canadian commercial UAV market this could be more effort than it is worth for many drone manufacturers considering very few have done so to date with the Compliant status.

It should be noted that the draft regulations that make up the NPA were created for the most part by an industry working group at Unmanned Systems Canada, of which some of the current Compliant UAV’s manufacturers are part of.  Regulations that may be good for Canadian UAV manufacturers may be the oppose for the small operator.

Where this may end up is yet to be determined as we have yet to see the next phase in the regulator process for the new regulations and what changes to the draft that could be made, and recent word is it may be mid to late 2017 before they come into effect.

These changes could have a drastic impact on existing operators.  Now is the time to speak up if you have concerns.  While the comment period for the NPA is closed there is still an opportunity to bring issues up with your MP, Minister of Transport, and Unmanned Systems Canada.  Make your concerns known or many could be looking for other options.

The Actions of a Few – Drones & Public Perception

nodroneOne of the more hotly debated topics in regards to UAVs  or drone operations is the impact of recreational users on the commercial industry.  Some see these are two separate and distinct uses where one does not reflect on the other and are completely different issues.  The problem however is public perception, either first hand experiences or those reported by the media.  In the eyes of many outside the drone community there is no distinction between who or how the device it is being used – a drone is a drone is a drone.

Because of this perception the industry as a whole can be greatly impacted by the actions of a few, be they recreational or commercial users.

When the public sees a drone flying over a crowd at an event they don’t know or care if this is someone flying for fun or being paid.  They see a drone and question if what is being done is legal and safe.  If an accident does happen the reasons for the flight are not the focus but the fact a drone crashed into someone and caused an injury.  The media headline won’t be “Commercial Drone Injures Child” or “Recreational Drone Injures Child” but merely “Drone Injures Child”.  When someone is annoyed with a drone flying near their property or at a beach or other public area they don’t wonder if it is recreational or commercial they just see it in a negative light in general.

Many parks and municipalities either already have restrictive drone bylaws or are in the process of creating such policies to address public concern.  The more negative stories on drones the more likely for these policies are to be anti-drone as agencies can quickly make knee jerk decisions to address public concerns, be they justified or not.

This can further impact commercial operations with client perception around what can and cannot be done with a drone.  A potential client sees a YouTube video and may want a similar flight done for their event, such as flying over a parade route.  Legal operators have to explain why such a flight cannot be done which can be confusing to the client.  In many cases the education works and an alternative option can be found, but in some cases the client simply goes with another operator that will do the work regardless of the laws.  This sometimes may just be their friend with a drone who is not aware or even caring of the regulations and flys “for fun” which just per perpetuates the underlying issue.

Commercial operators are not off the hook in the public perception either, there have been a number of cases of questionable flights by even those holding SFOCs, which can be seen in the extreme cases in Transport Canada fines to certified operators.

And just because something may be legal to do doesn’t mean it is wise to do.  There are uses of drones that may be fully allowable legally but we all need to ask ourselves does the risk justify the reward. If something goes wrong how will you personally or your company be impacted and what could the fallout be for the entire industry? We all need to think before we fly and consider safety, perception, and respect the privacy and respect of others and not be “that guy”.

Until the regulations of recreational and commercial use merge the these issues will continue, and even with new regulations there will be ongoing questionable uses of drones. Transport Canada has limited enforcement resources so we cannot expect them to be on every case that comes up and often times local law enforcement is unaware of the regulations around drone use. As an industry we need to keep abreast of such issues and try and make sure the actions of a few don’t taint the entire community & industry.  If we witness unsafe drone use then is should be reported.  Contacting media when incorrect statements are made, doing community outreach, and simply explaining what we are doing when asked when in the public can all help dispel the myths and worries around drones and their use.  If we don’t then the public view of what we do could easily go down the wrong path.

Drone are here to stay and everyone has a right to use them be it for work or for fun but this needs to be done in a safe and respectful manner. Ignoring questionable activity helps no one long term – a drone is a drone is a drone.

State of Canadian UAV Industry and the Challenges Ahead

IPHONE-2014.10.31- (1)As 2016 rolls along and summer quickly approaches, we have been looking back over the last year and ahead to 2017 for a sense of where the commercial UAV industry is in Canada, particularly as it relates to small/medium aerial service providers.

The following are some of the key/critical issues we see that the industry faces.

  • New regulations that were released to NPA over a year ago by Transport Canada are still in limbo.  The latest word seems to be a mid to late 2017 implementation time-frame. This leaves the industry with a lot of unknowns going forward in regards to how operations will be regulated and what the requirements will be to remain in business.
  • Without the new regulations the current gap in the regulations between recreational and commercial use is a major concern.  The lack of almost any recreational regulations leads to concerns not only with safety of the airspace but also the loophole it provides for operators flying “for fun” and then later using the imagery for commercial purposes in the guise of “passion projects”.
  • The differences in commercial vs recreational use is also further confused by misinformation coming from media and even Transport Canada.  Many of the guidelines are being stated as if they were laws making the situation even muddier for those involved.  Commercial operators are sometimes accused of flying illegally as less informed individuals assume the rules are the same for all use, when in fact they vary greatly.
  • Lack of consistency in the SFOC application process has been an issue since day one and one that is still present.  Not all regions apply the Staff Instructions in the same manner, and even within the same region different inspectors can often interpret them differently.  What may be allowed for one operator may be reject for another.
  • This lack of consistency also exists in other areas as well, such as with the coordination of operations with Nav Canada and air traffic controllers.  There are multiple agencies still getting up to speed on how to integrate drones into the national airspace, and this can vary greatly from location to location.
  • Combined with loopholes in the regulations is the lack of enforcement for the regulations we do have.  Many choose to ignore the SFOC requirements as they know the odds of getting caught are slim to none.  This leads to further frustration of legal operators and makes for an unlevel playing field when trying to operate legally and within the SFOC restrictions with those that are not bound by any rules. Often times SFOC holders become the easier target of enforcement since it is easier to prove than it is with illegal operators not tied to the conditions of an SFOC.
  • Exemptions continue to be a point of confusion within the industry; this was a misstep by Transport Canada in our opinion, one that has lead to ongoing confusion around when and if an SFOC is needed for commercial use.  The reality is Exemptions rarely can be used due to all the conditions, but many try and operate under them without reading the fine details.
  • The “accident waiting to happen” is the the back of the minds of many in the industry.  Reports of near misses with manned aircraft make the news on a regular basis.  The greatest fear is what the fallout will be when something serious does happen and we see knee jerk reactions from law makers. The holes in the current regulations and limited enforcement make this accident all the more possible.
  • Many municipalities and other agencies such as federal and provincial parks are starting to create policies to deal with the growing number of drones being used on their property.  The main concern for the industry is how these policies could end up grounding commercial operations even for legal insured operators.  Often times the powers that be  involved in the creation of these bylaws may not have a good background or understanding of the safe use of UAVs and the related federal regulations that manages their use.
  • Professionalism within the industry is a growing concern.  Currently there exists no official certification or licensing for UAV operators, merely the need to hold an SFOC which can be relatively easy to obtain even with little to no UAV or aviation experience.  As such it is hard for potential clients looking for UAV services to determine who is a safe, skilled, and legal provider.  The need to remove the “wild west” mentality that currently exists and form a professional association that can help manage the industry is a key element going forward. The industry needs to manage itself to be successful long term.
  • With the mixed messages around drones and their uses comes potential issues when operators interface with clients.  Often times client expectations are outside the realm of reality due to stories they have seen in the media.  Also footage they may have seen from illegal or recreational flights can further confuse matters, where the client asks for something that cannot be legally done.  A large part of a provider’s job becomes educating the customer on what is and isn’t possible.
  • Drone technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace.  This offers great opportunities for new application of the technology and reduced barriers of entry.  No longer do operators need to be “drone techies”, systems now come ready to fly and offer many high end features out of the box such as automated mapping, HD video feeds, high quality camera systems. Much of the operation of the aircraft itself is being automated making hands on flight skills less of a hurdle.  The systems have become commodities and tools, not technological marvels.  The challenge for service providers is to remain current but also manage the ROI from systems and equipment and not be displaced from the industry by new entries.

The industry faces rapid growth in the months and years ahead.  The challenge will be for regulators and operators to keep up and stay current and not be outpaced by new innovations and players in the market and strike a balance between managing safe use and allowing for innovation.