Transport Canada Issuing UAV Fines

uav-fineOver the holidays a story came out on a UAV operator in the Montreal area that was issued a $1000 fine for flying his UAV. The article itself is not long on details of what all had occurred and the events that lead to the fine however. As reported, Julien Gramigna, a photographer from Montreal who operates VuDuCiel, received the fine in late December from Transport Canada while using the UAV to take photos of a house for a real estate agent last summer.

“I’m definitely not paying this,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. I didn’t even get a warning.” – Julien Gramigna

It is unclear on the specifics of the incident that brought about the fine, but based on the statement of it being a real estate shoot, and the fact VuDuCiel is a commercial UAV aerial imaging provider, it seems fairly clear that this was in fact a commercial use and thus would fall under Transport Canada regulations.

The the full article can be found here:

Considering the fact that VuDuCiel is a commercial UAV operator, and from their website seem to have a number of existing clients, it is safe to assume they should have been aware of the regulations for commercial use prior to this incident. Additional media reports state Mr. Gramigna complained about the current lack of information on regulations. So there is no doubt more to this story that the media reports have mentioned in any detail.

This is only the second case of Transport Canada issuing a fine to our knowledge.  The other case took place last year where an operator had been working without an SFOC and had multiple fines for multiple operations that were apparently reduced in an agreed settlement. In this case the unofficial story is that the operator had applied for SFOCs for each operation however he never received a response from Transport Canada, and proceeded with the operations without.  This case as well took place in Quebec. (It should be noted that the details of this incident are 3rd hand and as such may differ from the actual facts.)

This adds to ongoing complaints that we have heard and directly experienced with the processing time for SFOC applications, which are far from the 20 days noted by Transport Canada, often taking weeks to months to be turned around. At present the processing time for the Atlantic Region is 6-8 weeks as told to us by the regional office in Moncton.

Further to the story itself have been the comments from various readers online which range from suggesting all out bans on drones to no need for regulations for “toys”.  It is clear from some of the comments that many, including those directly involved in UAV businesses and full scale aviation, are not aware or clear of the full Transport Canada UAV regulations.  Many assume that the new exemptions can be used for most activities if the UAV is under 2kg.  As we previously reported, the exemptions are not a free for all and have very specific requirements that all must be met in order for the exemption to apply.  Otherwise an SFOC is required for commercial use, the same as before the exemptions came into being.  Some that we communicated with were surprised to learn that there were so many fine details over what was reported by the media when Transport Canada made the first press release on the exemptions and released the Infographic summary back in November.

The following comment in the Montreal article also gives us some concern:

“Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t hurt anyone with it,” he (Julien Gramigna) said.

Anyone involved with UAVs, be it commercial or recreational, knows that even the smallest aircraft have the potential to cause harm or damage. Shrugging it off is not the best approach to growing the industry in our view.  Operators need to make safety a high priority, otherwise we may be faced with further regulation down the road if incidents start to occur from unsafe operation.

The main point that UAV operators need to keep in mind is that the onus is on the operator to fully review and understand the regulations and ensure they are operating legally.  If you merely assume what is required based on summaries and reports by traditional media you could be in for a shock and potentially facing fines if Transport Canada is stepping up enforcement as the recent Montreal case suggests.

Right now Canadian regulations are in a state of flux and confusion exists at many levels.  Hopefully things will be clarified as we move into 2015, but we expect a bumpy road over the next few months as the industry “takes-off” and regulators try and play catch-up.

50 comments

  1. One very important thing to note is that what was said to the reporter is « Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t KILL anyone with it » while it was discussed that our drone seemed to be considered even more dangerous than a manned helicopter or plane even though, to our knowledge, a death was never heard of in the multirotor community. It is a very sad detail that was overlooked and we cannot do anything about it since the article was released to the public as is, but I can reassure you that we are no « kids with toys » and are very aware of the risks involved. We take extra steps to ensure the safety of everybody: we wear safety vests and hard hats, we block off areas, we have a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit on hand, we are always on the lookout for air traffic even though we barely ever go over 150ft, and more importantly, you’d probably be surprised by the amount of non-sense projects we refused to take part in, like the Igloofest and the Lolë events that took place in the Old Port of Montreal, to name a few.

    There is a lot more to this story than what meets the eye, but try and explain what has happened in the course of a 1-year-and-a-half debate of technical issues and bureaucratic non-sense to an unknowledgeable reporter that has to condense everything in a one-page article that is intended for the general public? Some details to note are the facts that both the operating of the drone and the shooting of the images were NOT charged to the client, but more importantly the fact that Mr Gramigna was not operating the drone, has never piloted a drone before and has no plan of doing so. He is a DOP, a camera operator and just barely a passenger while he holds a monitor and controls the tilt of the camera.

    As you may have noticed from this blog post, the Quebec region seems more reluctant to let drone businesses take flight. When we bought our first drone in july 2013, I gave multiple calls to Transports Canada’s office in Montreal to get more details on regulations and how-to’s. I was refered to Omer Lemaire, the « big guy » for drones. Obviously, I got transfered to his voicemail. In the course of the following months, I left MULTIPLE messages and emails to Mr Lemaire. Believe it or not, I got a call back in late February 2014. Mr Lemaire was very unfriendly, addressed my questions like a suicidal robot, made it clear that I was bothering him as he was preparing the SFOC for things that were worth his time like « the hot air balloon festival of Gatineau ». He also told me that the actual delays for obtaining a SFOC were of 6 months+, and that nothing would be issued for a built up area. When I asked him the definition of a built up area, he referred to it being anything from a metropolis to a shed in a field in the great white north. I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing, so I asked him « So if someone calls me to take a picture of his house at 20ft, I have to tell him that I may be able to do it in 6 months!? ». His loud and clear answer was « Yup. But only if that person doesn’t have any neighor in a 5-mile radius, otherwise your SFOC will be denied, that’s how it is with commercial UAV operations. » I asked him what was a commercial UAV operation, to which he simply said « If you charge for it, it’s commercial. Now if you excuse me, I am very busy and have other things to do, so I hope you got your answers. »

    Faced with the facts that running a viable drone business while conforming to all Transports Canada is just plain and simply impossible, we haven’t charge once for flying our multirotor. We have sold sideline products like video editing and photo retouching as Transports Canada has no juridiction over that, right? Seems we were badly misinformed, because investigation notices started coming in our mailbox in July 2014. 7 of them, in total (to date, that is). When we talked with the investigator, Mr Yves Thibodeau, we were struct with a law representative that was, to our logic, on a powertrip. He was very friendly as he explained to us that uploading an aerial video to YouTube constitutes a commercial operation in itself since you can monetize your views. Even a LIKE on a picture posted on Facebook could technically constitute a form of gratification, which is a form of revenue. When we told him that we never charged anybody for this, he went as far as explaining that a video editor that has never piloted a drone but that uses aerial footage in a project falls under their regulations and would have to prove that the footage he used was made in a flight that was authorized with a SFOC. Ok… Wait, what!?!?

    So we waited while we tried to put our mind together. The fine finally came in on the 23rd of December 2014. The fine was dated on the 12th of November 2014 with a due date or appeal request by the 15th of December 2014. The stamp on the letter shows it was mailed on the 19th of December 2014. Thanks?

    That fine was for one video we made for a RE/MAX Real Estate agent. Sure enough, we had permission of the owner to be over his property. Here’s the actual video: http://vimeo.com/105731255

    We also have a recording dating back in July 2014 of Remy Désert, a SFOC reviewer/inspector that since quit his job, saying the delays were around 3 months, but just couldn’t guarantee anything. « Could be longer. That’s how it is, Sir! »

    I’ll stop here for now, as a lot of hate from the general public is thrown at us with a lot of strong accusions like being terrorists or trying to spy on people. We are artists, and we see a drone as a very creative tool in our toolbox. All we wanted is people like us, honest people trying to make a living, to know that TC is now actively issuing fines.

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask, and please excuse my english, I’m a french Canadian trying to do my best. Thank you.

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    1. Jeff – First off thank you for the detailed reply. It certainly paints a different picture from the article.

      I would suggest contacting the media to add some clarification to this story. As it was published none of the points you made above are mentioned, and it really comes off as Mr Gramigna being unaware of the regulations when it fact it appears your company has been “dealing” with TC for sometime now.

      We are currently dealing with similar issues with TC so can appreciate your position.

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    2. Regarding not charging for aerial service but charging for editing, etc, it is my understanding that is irrelevant. If the end use of the imagery is commercial then the flight operation is commercial. Direct payment is not the deciding factor. I’ve seen this mentioned many times as a “loophole” both in Canada and the US and it really doesn’t stand up as a work around excuse. In Canada anything not done purely for recreational purposes is deemed commercial and thus falls under TC, be it unpaid work for a client SAR, etc.

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    3. Jeff – For clarification, am I correct in assuming based on the issues you have had with TC that you basically worked without an SFOC and knew the underlying requirements but were caught up in red tape unable to obtain an SFOC to work legally?

      I’m just trying to understand this further since the news article makes no mention of any of this.

      It seems from what you have said and again from what I have heard that Quebec region is one of the tougher ones to try and work within and your case is not the first of people having issues getting an SFOC. it will be interesting to see what if any impact the new regulations will have on this. It also seems that every region has their own interpretation of the rules and applies them differently. I’ve see complete contradictions from one region to another on how they see when and where the regulations apply. it makes it hard to operate when everything is grey and based on how the person you are dealing with decides a rule should be applied.

      The more and more involved we get with the UAV business and the related regulations and issues the more it seems apparent that an industry association might be required to give honest professional operators a voice and some power to help deal with TC on issues like this. As it stands now it seems everyone is being handled differently on a case by case basis and there is no clarity or standards being used across the board, which makes for a very unfair playing field to try and work and compete within.

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  2. Thanks for you reply. We simply went ahead with what we were told by Transports Canada’s representative. While everybody seems outraged by the fact that we didn’t apply for an SFOC, my question is: how can a drone business be viable and profitable if it needs to request a SFOC for each and every contract, 6 months in advance? Did you really ever get a call from a client wanting an aerial video of his property, in no less than 6 months? Let’s be rational here, please.

    Granted I get a logical answer, I would really like to know why somebody lifting its drone at 20ft in his front yard for recreational purposes can do it right now without asking permission, but he needs to fill a request with no kind of form or real structure and then wait 6 months to do the exact same thing for commercial purposes. Since the mission of Transports Canada is to enforce safety in transports, can someone tell me the difference in the risks involved with someone lifting up to take a picture for fun and someone lifting up to take a picture for any other reason? Those are the only two questions I just can’t wrap my head around.

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    1. In regards to the waiting period your correct, you cannot operate a business with a 20 day or 6 month waiting period. The only way to operate effectively is via a blanket SFOC which is what most operators work towards. Otherwise there is no effective means to plan and schedule. This long term SFOC is still available under the new regulations as it was before. The bigger issue is the new SFOC process is much more involved and much more restrictive unless you become a Complaint Operator, which requires more paperwork and certification over the old system.

      In terms of why recreational vs commercial has different rules that is the same for any business operation. You can cook food at home and serve guests but you cannot run a food truck or restaurant without the proper paperwork and licenses. Same for a TAXI operation, electrician, etc. Once you start working commercially there will always be rules and regulations and red tape to deal with. And the reality is that Transport Canada is not concerned with how or if a business is successful. The regulations are focused on safety (or so TC claims) not on the health of the industry and businesses involved in it.

      Trying to justify that rules shouldn’t apply I don’t think is the best way forward. We need to work with TC and try and make a workable system. Yes it is very frustrating at times and the current process has many problems, but I don;t think ignoring the regulations because they are too hard is going to benefit the industry long term. TC will merely step up enforcement and fines and potentially restrict operations further or worse yet do an all out ban on use.

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      1. Please be aware that we are with you and agree on pretty much everything you said. But I’m still having issues with the whole recreational vs commercial subject. You pointed out good examples, but each with its debatable flaws. A chef in a restaurant or food truck can poison someone else as he’s feeding clients and not just himself anymore. Taxis take aboard and transport random people so they definitely need a different driver’s licence than the average Joe, right? They do have extra lives pending on their shoulders, so we need to expect more qualifications from them. But a recreational drone vs commercial seems to me more logical when compared to a pizza delivery guy than a taxi. Average Joe and Steve the pizza delivery guy use their car for different purposes, one to go to the grocery store, the other to deliver pizza, yet they still have the same driver’s licences. They both basically do the same thing, go from point A to point B, sharing the same roads at the same level of risks of an accident, all while involving the same amount of people. But where it all comes down from there is the fact that to get a driver’s licence, there is a very structured process to go through, with accredited learning schools, properly prepared formation documents, legal forms to fill out, specific insurances to get, evaluation and exams to pass, etc. Almost none of those yet exist or are clear enough for someone to even get near enough to a point where commercial drone operations can make for a viable business.

        Anyhow, coming out to the media was really just to let everyone know that TC is giving out fines, as it may change things for a lot of people. Sadly, the real subject is overly technical for the average person and reporters tend to take details out of the whole story and more importantly out of context. We are planning to meet with TC after the holidays, if we can ever reach anyone or anything else than a voicemail. I’ll keep you posted!

        Thanks!

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      2. If your using a UAV commercially you are operating more often and in more areas than a recreational user would thus there is more risk and responsibility.

        I have no issues with TC imposing regulations. There are too many”cowboys” around to allow for a free for all. Even a small UAV like a Phantom can cause property damage or harm someone so there needs to be some controls in place.

        The current SFOC process may be slow and flawed but I don’t think having no regulation is the solution. Arguing for no restrictions isn’t something I agree with. Too much potential for problems by people unaware of risk management and general airspace usage.

        I’m still a bit confused how the media story is so different from what you presented here. If the person interviewed doesn’t even fly then why was he the one interviewed? Why is there no mention of the year long issues with TC and the SFOC process? I know how the media can twist a story but this seems to have major details omitted. Just trying to get a clear picture of this case and how it evolved.

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      3. The fact that the details in the article do not really represent the situation at all, do not surprise me. That’s how mainstream media works. I was interviewed for a piece on drone technology about a year ago, for one of the national newspapers. The interviewer spoke to me for about an hour. She ended up not using a single piece of info I gave her, nor referencing me at all, because I did not say anything to her that fit in with the story she had already concocted in her head. She knew the story she wanted to write, and she was just looking for people to say the things she wanted to say to make her opinion piece, a legitimate news article. This is pretty backwards.

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  3. From my personal experience, I am 100% confident that a recreational user poses more risks than a commercial user. There’s no « Hey man, wanna see how fast and how high my quad can go? » when you have a TV crew, a DOP and a producer next to you.

    We do need regulations, that is obvious. I’m just not sure that the current mess is fully rational.

    Julien was the one interviewed because he is the one that personally got the fine. Almost everything I said here was said to the reporter, but in the end, all she was interested in was to point out that a drone is amongst the top 5 christmas gifts and that Santa might just put it under your Christmas tree with a 1000$ fine.

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    1. From my experience nothing is ever 100% certain. Yes on a TV set shoot you may be right but they also probably don’t hire unproven operators for such work. Most want to see demo reels first.

      The bigger issue is the guy running off to Henrys to get a Phantom and an hour later he is trying to do a real estate shoot for his business. Without education these folks have no idea of safety issues involved or what could go wrong.

      Regulations won’t solve all the problems but them in conjunction with education and enforcement and fines will eventually drive the point home to many.

      Again if the story is that divergent from reality I suggest a followup story with the reporter or another paper. Things just seem odd as is.

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  4. I have found this exchange extremely enlightening. I was greatly disturbed by the news article and how it painted a picture of Xmas drone and the risk of a fine. Lousy, but sensational reporting, as usual.

    I feel for this company. It is a shame when low level managers in government agencies are given a little authority and amazes me to no end, how far they can bend/abuse that power.

    But I guess the only solution really, is what flitelab is saying. One is forced to try and work within their system and maybe down the line affect changes in it. Certainly fighting or ignoring them, and you see the results. It seems it WOULD help to at least change the perception out there, if you could get the news to try and see and report more of your side of this story.

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  5. This operator needs to follow the rules, pay the fine and realize they are not up to basic UAV operational standards. Just because you start a UAV business (like everyone’s cousin has), doesn’t mean your able to operate successfully and safely.

    They should have done the proper research and applied for SFOCs like everyone else does. UAV operation is dangerous and the SFOC process is to teach operators proper procedures. Get an SFOC for each job, then after a while you will get a Blanket SFOC then an Open Permit – it takes time, be patient and learn (this is the whole point.. you learn or give up).

    I’m currently an SFOC Open Permit holder for every Provence in Canada (even Quebec and I don’t live there), so don’t give the excuse that its too hard to get for your business – obtaining SFOCs should have been in your business plan! Its like opening a bar without a liquor license, do your homework and take responsibility 🙂

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    1. Jason – Well said. The system might not be perfect but there is a system. Anyone going into any business needs to research all the ins and outs and requirements. All businesses have regulations, this one is not special in that fact.

      The current system is not ideal, and the recent SFOC changes make matters even harder, we ourselves are stuck in limbo trying to get a new SFOC under the new changes, but at least there is a system to try and work within. There will be road blacks of red tape and headaches like many other industries. Ignoring all rules because you don’t like them is not the solution.

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    2. I was just gearing up to say something about this case, but you made my case for me. Thanks.

      So reading what Jeff has written, we have a few facts that I would confirmed or denied:

      1) You, Jason, do not live in Quebec, and did not go through the SFOC process in Quebec.

      2) Jeff and Julien do live in Quebec, and do have to go through the SFOC process in Quebec.

      3) They have found the process in Quebec is basically impossible to navigate, as they can’t get anybody to return phone calls, and when they have managed to talk to somebody, they are given the impression that basically they will never be able to get an SFOC *no matter what*.

      4) You, Jason, not living in Quebec, have been able to get the SFOC process to work for you. This is not because you are smarter, or better, but because the rules for the SFOC process are not rigid, and are highly dependent on who you are dealing with locally. The rules are national. But they are being applied in different ways regionally. Some people living in different provinces are disadvantaged compared to others.

      I definitely do not think you should have the smug attitude that you do, assuming that you are better or smarter than these other guys, because you have been able to get a blanket SFOC in your province, when the reality is that you haven’t had to go through the same process.

      5) Since the SFOC process works better where you live, you have been able to achieve a blanket SFOC, for all areas, including Quebec. You are now able to work in Quebec. However, operators living in Quebec, have no opportunity to work in Quebec, because the SFOC process appears pretty broken there.

      6) It appears that Quebec has shot itself in the foot in this case. Their own local citizens, who actually live in the province, will be left out of the burgeoning UAV business. Only operators from outside the province, will be able to operate in Quebec.

      7) It would seem it would be better for Jeff and Julien, to move to Toronto, go through the SFOC process there, get to the point where they can get a blanket SFOC, and then move back to Quebec to start their business there. They would likely have to maintain an address in Toronto, so that their business would be located there (in name only) to continue to be able deal with the Toronto office which appears to be much more reasonable.

      Is this a democracy, and we are subject to laws that are applied universally? Or not?

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      1. I’ve heard a number of stories from different sources as to more on the issues involved but I would rather not post that here. Will need to see where it plays out.

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      2. As a recreational flyer(for now at least), it was unnerving for me to hear someone at the TC office here, say they could fine you even if you put a youtube video up and you get a “Like”. They consider this “Like” as a form of compensation. OMG!

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      3. While “technically” probably correct within the regulations, I don’t get the impression they are looking to do that. There are bigger fish to fry with obvious commercial operations breaking the rules to go after first. This story being a case in point.

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      4. Thanks Jason, your comment is helpful…being from Quebec I do know of at least one company, dizifilms.ca, located here in Quebec, that appears to have gotten a blanket SFOC as seen on their website. So it must be possible…difficult but possible.(Yet I do know how how difficult is seems at times when having to deal with low level government employees on a power trip, as Julien seems to have experienced)

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      5. Ken. I feel your frustrations but T.C. has to come up with some standard regarding what is commercial or not. Pretty much if you film, post on the web – there is a potential personal gain/benefit, example if someone sees it & either buys the footage / wants to hire you – or you use it to promote your future business. As flitelab stated, there are bigger fish to fly but DO NOT post anything online, its not worth it – there is so much aerial footage on the web anyway, its not whats going to get you future work, being professional and hitting up all your contacts is what will 🙂

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      6. People in Quebec have been able to get SFOCs and blankets for areas that are remote and are more like the ones covered in the new exemptions. Forrest, fields, farms. But not for anything within Montreal or anywhere near around. DiziFilms HAD a blanket to operate out of built up areas, and they lost it like many others because they couldn’t keep it within the lines and run a profitable aerial business with trees and fields, no matter how responsible and professional they were. Maybe they since got it back, but unaware to most is that DiziFilms also got heavily fined just a couple of months ago but didn’t want to talk about it because they dealt with TC to get a major reduction of their fine and then called it even…

        FYI, we are in contact with a lot of great people from our area involved in the industry and an « Open Permit » is totally and absolutely unheard of in Quebec.

        Gabrielle and Chuck from SkyMotionVideo.com were living in Quebec when they tried starting their aerial business, and they represent a very good exemple of nice and honest people that had to move to Ontario to get their business running.

        @robertlefebre42, could you contact me on our website? I would like your permission to quote some of the very good points you have brought up here and on other discussions on DIYDrones. I tried signing up back there to contact you but I’m still pending approval (story of my life, apparently! 😉 )

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      7. In response to Jeff “FYI, we are in contact with a lot of great people from our area involved in the industry and an « Open Permit » is totally and absolutely unheard of in Quebec.”

        Hum weird… we are from BC, have an Open Permit for Quebec & we have operated per our SFOC in Montreal. Not sure why others are having such issues w/ Quebec?

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      8. Wow, it sure is beginning to sound like these Federal laws are being administered and interpreted differently and apparently more severely in Quebec than in other Provinces. To the point where, as Jeff has been saying all along, it is almost impossible to run a business here. This is REALLY disconcerting.

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      9. We heard of a recent video shoot with a multirotor at the Pearson international airport for which a SFOC was issued by TC in Ontario. Someone we know asked a TC representant from Quebec why we couldn’t get any kind of SFOC for the Montreal area when others elsewhere could get permission at an international airport, and the answer from the representant was « Other regional TC offices are showing a lot of laxity and indulgence. In Quebec, we are respectful of the regulations and are applying them as they are written. » How’s that? Lucky us!

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      10. Jeff, thanks for the detail on Quebec permitting. That’s about what I thought. If anybody has any other information, specifically examples of companies based in Quebec with permits to operate anywhere near populated areas, I’d love to see it.

        Jason, you exactly proved my point. You do not have to deal with the Quebec TC office. You deal with the BC office. Your open permit (to included Quebec) has probably never been run past the Quebec office. I wonder if they are even aware of it. When you operated in Montreal, did you contact the Quebec office to let them know what you were doing?

        Would be interesting to know what they said if you did.

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      11. Regional offices have to be aware of and approve all SFOCs in their region. Even under the new regulations they need to be informed of standing certificates issued by other regions in theirs for a complaint operator.

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      12. Ok, thanks for the info. More pieces of the puzzle coming together. There’s still a conflicting opinions being expressed from Jeff, who lives in Quebec.

        Are there any examples of companies based in Quebec, with SFOC permits allowing them to operate near built-up area?

        It is curious that the CQFA is conducting UAV flight training in an area where it seems difficult to obtain an SFOC to conduct commercial work.

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    3. flitelab: No, this is NOT a “system”. A system has rules that apply universally. There would be a logical process which anybody could follow to achieve a desired result. Getting your driver’s license, is a system. You go to a certified trainer, take some set number of lessons, and practice some pre-determined manoevers, and gain a known skillset. Then, you go to a government run office, and conduct a test. Generally, that testing is applied universally, but if not, it wouldn’t be insurmountable to go to another testing center if you had a problem with one particular person. You have the option of having the testing standards applied fairly.

      None of that applies for UAV operations in Canada.

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      1. It may not be a system as you describe but there is a system and process. I agree it is not ideal and has issues and delays but it does exist. As others have mentioned, this is nothing new to TC and aviation issues. And with the new issues involved with UAVs it is all in a state of flux right now and a lot of people involved are confused and unclear on what is what. It will settle out in time but this is all bleeding edge now so there are going to be a lot of speed bumps along the way. I’ve spent almost all of the holidays working on new documentation for a new SFOC, so I’m well aware of the issues involved, but it is all we got. It could be worse, they could do like the FAA and basically ban all commercial use.

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  6. Yes, thanks Jason, sure glad to know and hear it IS possible. I was beginning to get the impression otherwise, from their reports. Sure sounds like they need to accept more of the responsibility, pay the fine, learn from this and move on, and follow your advise.

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  7. Most forget this is the aviation industry, one of the most regulated industries around. Transport Canada & FAA will follow CARS for UAV operations, real only concern is public safety regarding manned aircraft.

    I hated the process of getting an SFOC at 1st like everyone but it was necessary to learn. The new Staff Instructions are much more difficult & I’ll have to do them as everyone else will even though I’m already Open Pemitted throughout Canada. It will deter & eliminate much of the competition so it’s actually really good for business.

    If your just starting out in UAV’s, realize it will take you a long time (probably a year) & will cost some cash to become a compliment operator & pilot. Start your ground school right away, then your UHF radio cert & chisel away at your flight manual. Would also help to get consulting from a company who has gotten many SFOC & an aviation advisor.

    Good luck, don’t give up & look at the long term!

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    1. I don’t think we’re forgetting. It is with the exact understanding that it is the aviation industry that brings high expectations for effective regulation. I’m not advocating for no regulations. I want regulations! I just want them to be reasonable and effective.

      What I want, is defined training requirements, with certified trainers. Standardized government testing, to achieve a license which allows operational flexibility. And reasonable and effective rules.

      You go get training.
      You take a test.
      You get your license.
      And then you go to work.

      This already exists in the UK and Australia.

      And the comparison to civil manned aviation just reinforces my point.

      Private, non-commercial pilots, need to get training, take a test, and get a license before they are allowed to fly. This is because, even though the flight activities are only recreational, they still present a risk to other people in the air, and on the ground.

      Why is it, that it’s safe enough to allow completely unlicensed and unregulated sales and operation of recreational UAV’s. But then commercial usage of those exact same systems, is so difficult?

      It’s not commercial operators, who were flying in the flight path at Pearson and Vancouver airports.

      BTW, where is the fine for the guy who flew in Vancouver? My understanding is that TC does know who that is, and he does reside in Canada. They should be nailing that guy to the wall. Not Julien.

      I just have a problem with this massive divide between the regulations for recreational usage (ie: virtually none), and that required for commercial operation. It’s not logical.

      Either these machines are safe enough to fly in your back yard, or they’re not. I think TC should regulate recreational usage, but they know they cannot. They can’t put that genie in the bottle. You can a Phantom for $800 (or whatever) at any FutureShop. And anybody can fly it without instantly killing themselves. The population would not stand for tight regulations, and they’d never be able to enforce it. The genie is out of the bottle. But that does not mean that commercial usage is just inherently more dangerous.

      Not having an easy-to-follow commercial licensing regime, with a known path to get to a desired result (ie: being able to do this full time as a job), just leads to this problem where there are so many unlicensed operators. You can’t expect police to stop every person flying a drone, and investigate if they’re being paid or not. So, you will have people, lots of people, doing commercial operations “under the radar”.

      By making it too hard to do things the right way. And with unlimited and cheap supply of easy-to-fly hardware, there will always be somebody willing to do it outside of the laws. This makes it harder be legitimate.

      This is the position I’m in, and why I’m so frustrated. I want to do this commercially, and I want to do it the right way. But I can’t get any clients, if I have to wait 20+ days for every job, when there are 10 guys near me flying Phantoms without a permit, and another guy with a blanket SFOC.

      I’m stuck and cannot proceed.

      The only opportunity I have, is to develop technological capability that other people do not have. That’s what I’m working on.

      Like

      1. All of what you say is coming regarding license and training requirements, more flexible system for operators bu it’s not goign to be simple or easy, nothing in aviation is. Look at the Compliant Operator SFOC process. https://blog.flitelab.com/2014/12/19/new-sfoc-exemption-summary/

        If you want to be in this industry as a business then start working toward a Complain Operator status. Same is we did over the last two years forgetting a blanket SFOC. yes it takes time and effort but once you have it then you can focus on the work. Focusing on complaining about the system wont move you forward. Most people I know that complain about the SFOC process never even tried to apply, they take a quick look and throw up their hands. It’s not simple or quick to do but it does work if you jump through all the hoops. We are stuck in limbo right now with the new regulations but instead of ranting I’m researching and developing the new documents to move forward. Sure I wish the system was easier but I could also wish to be a millionaire and neither are likely to just magically happen

        All business have red tape and regulations, I think you’ll find once you get involved you start seeing it but from the outside you never notice what most deal with.

        Long term the illegal operators will not last. Those that offer a unique professional service will. Again, like any other industry. You never want to play in the low end, if you merely compete on price there will always be someone cheaper.

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      2. So what you’re saying is that you were working towards a blanket SFOC for 2 years, and before you could get it, all the rules changed, and you have to start all over again. Is that right?

        I did start the process. I immediately got stuck on insurance. I was trying to get insurance for custom built machines, and nobody was interested. They wanted to insure Phantoms, because there is the perception that this ready-to-fly system is more reliable than custom built machines.

        Nothing could be further from the truth, and that just highlights the fact that even people working in the industry (those selling insurance for UAV’s in this case) do not understand the technology.

        I am aware of operators, who have gotten insurance and SFOC’s, where the machine was basically described as a specific hobby helicopter. Never mind that that hobby helicopter was never designed as a UAV, and was never intended to fly a camera. But it all goes through, because people don’t really understand.

        When I make another attempt, I’ll have to play that game too. It does make me nervous, because I know that when it comes time to a claim, *then* the insurance companies will investigate what the situation really is, and deny the claim. So, you don’t really have insurance, you just have a piece of paper to satisfy the the SFOC requirements. But “the system” seems happy with that.

        The whole thing is steering in the direction of DJI’s ready-to-fly systems. Of course, if people really knew about these, they’d know that they are quite far from any kind of stable and reliable systems. Just look at the A2 firmware release debacle from this past summer. And that was their “commercial” system, not the type you buy in FutureShop. Several commercial operators lost aircraft due to that. Is it reported to the regulators? Well, not in Canada. But in the UK and Australia, they’re actually moving to ban the A2 from commercial use. In Canada, nobody is even aware of it.

        Anyway, more evidence that our “system” needs a lot of work.

        Like

      3. No we spent almost a year researching the business before we filed an SFOC and getting things in order. Then had blanket for a year. Now we have to refile under new rules to renew.

        Never had an issue with insurance on custom built systems, we run custom as well as DJI, no problems at all.

        Try Capri or Magnes for insurance.

        You seem to be looking for problems that really don’t exist in my experience to be honest. Those that look for trouble will find it.

        Like

      4. A forum like this does allow for those in this business or wanting to get into it,the ability to get information and learn from others, voice opinions, let off steam, agree and dis-agree, etc. for which it is very beneficial and I for one, am happy to have found it. There is a lot of very useful info here. I suspect everyone involved realizes the TC has to be dealt with, on their level, like it or not, and, as Jeff said, must find their own way through these TC’s requirements and expense/time that entails, and work that into their own business plan or goals. It is really the only choice if one wants to move forward. But the info here, I find, both in the research and well written blog post, along with hearing others and their experiences, very valuable. Thanks…

        Like

      5. flitelab, I’m not looking for trouble. I tried working with the “system”. I was immediately stuck. Without having found any sources of info to help, what’s a guy to do?

        This blog is the first really good source of info for Canadian operators I’ve seen to date.

        Like

      6. I agree the system is not straight forward, but most government systems aren’t unfortunately. it takes a lot of time and effort and research to figure out what is needed. We were in the exact same boat 2+ years ago, went from not knowing anything about what an SFOC even was through to multiple applications and finally a blanket SFOC. So it is doable trust me, don;t give up on it. The process in my view in part is the way it is in order to force you to do research and develop your processes and procedures. if it were merely cookie cutter copy and paste the many wouldn’t even understand what they were submitting. The process to get there forces you to learn a lot of valuable information along the way.

        Like

  8. Not being smug, just stating the facts. And I’m not smarter than anyone else, just have done lots of research before I went into business.

    Obtaining an SFOC is pretty straight forward and the guidelines to follow are explained in the S.I. But it does take time and most do not like this, you have to factor this into your business plan. It took many months to get my SFOC’ed in each province by applying to each of the appointed regional offices (even Quebec, they are all the same).

    1) Don’t quit your day job and factor the below into your business plan.
    2) Follow the Staff Instructions (build your manuals)
    3) Get your ground school
    4) Get your UHF certification
    5) Apply for an SFOC (applied for multiple at a time & a training area)
    6) Wait in line 20-120 days depending on where you are.
    7) Keep applying for any new locations (20-120 days)
    8) After you feel your manuals, risk assessments, compliance is satisfactory apply for a Blanket SFOC (after you have received multiple standard SFOCS – they want to see you get experience)
    9) Operate under the Blanket for a few months, then apply for an Open
    10) T.C. will state they need more info, revise your manuals, r.a.’s and reply
    11) Might have to do this 2-4 times, the process seams to be to teach non-aviation operators to be diligent and comprehensive
    12) You will be gradated an Open for “x” amount of time, after which you will have to reapply, then you will get one for a year or so depending on region.

    At 1st I was displeased at the process as well but after operating for 2 years I have stated that T.C. needs to regulate more, which they are doing. And now its only going to get more difficult with the amount of manuals, certifications, etc required. I’m all for tougher regulations since we operate daily and have seen many possible issues regarding the old S.I. I’ll have to do the new S.I. like everyone else and happy to do so, it only good for business – dedicated individuals will be awarded, others will complain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad I came across this post and the eye-opening discussion it generated.

      I’ve been on the fence about dropping $5K on the CQFA lUAV pilot certification course, wondering if it will really offer any practical commercial benefit or smooth any SFOC filings I might need.

      I still feel the price is steep, but I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, the program will enable me to attain knowledge in a few weeks that would otherwise take much more time to acquire “organically”.

      Like

    2. Hi Jason! I couldn’t help but notice that Quebec wasn’t part of your Open Permit anymore. Are you running into any problems with TC’s Quebec regional office? It seems it is the only region missing from the PDF available on your website…

      Like

  9. I’m doing the English language Light UAV pilot course at CQFA-Chicoutimi College in mid March. I’ve been working my way through the e-learning component for several weeks now. It is pretty demanding material and I have a new respect for anyone who has a pilot’s licence in Canada. Lots to know and memorize.

    The e-learning platform is not particularly sophisticated — but then again I’m comparing it to the Moodle 2.0 platform used at Athabasca University, AB in their Masters programs. But despite the slightly clunky platform and the not-always-perfect translations, the content is engaging and challenging. This goes way beyond recreational drone play or even hobby level RC drone flight. The approach is definitely to engage you with the regulatory framework of aviation here in Canada.

    I agree that the price is steep, but I think you have to compare it to the cost of flight schools and not college or university courses. Finally, I don’t think there is a more comprehensive UAV ground and flight school course in Canada. Several of the others I looked at appear to be cursory in comparison. I’ll flesh out my comments after completing the course.

    Like

    1. Hey Stephen, we’re doing the same thing! Looks like I’ll meet you in person in a week or so.

      I agree with all of your assessments regarding the course… very detailed and involved, though the delivery isn’t inspiring. Regarding other courses available in Canada, when I was looking at them it seemed they were designed for the people who are already confident pilots and so just present informational material. The CQFA practical course promises to cover flight training and platform maintenance / repair – something those other courses lack.

      Looking forward to meeting you.

      Like

      1. Hi Martin….great to make a connection in advance of the classroom section of the course. Looking forward to meeting in person!

        See you on the 17th.

        Like

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