UAV SFOC Myths: My drone is under 2kgs so I don’t need an SFOC.

Myths and Facts opposition written on whiteboardMyths: My drone is under 2kgs so I don’t need an SFOC.

While there are exemption in Canada for commercial use of UAVs that are under 2kgs, as well as ones between 2-25kgs, the weight alone is not the only condition that must be met.

The main item that most overlook and that restricts the widespread use of the exemptions is the 5NM (9KM) restrictions from airports and built-up areas.  The confusion comes from what a “built-up area” is as TC has not defined in clearly, however it is generally referred to mean the following:

areas with groups of buildings or dwellings including anything from small hamlets to major cities. Anything larger than a farmstead should be considered a built up area

The operator is responsible for makig nsure they meet all the condition of any exemption or SFOC they use, so you need to fully understand ALL the regulations, and not cherry pick the ones that appear to fit your needs.

See our article  UAV SFOC Exemptions “For Dummies” for further information.


      1. Canadian Aviation Regulations
        “unmanned air vehicle” means a power-driven aircraft, other than a model aircraft, that is designed to fly without a human operator on board;
        “model aircraft” means an aircraft, the total weight of which does not exceed 35 kg (77.2 pounds), that is mechanically driven or launched into flight for recreational purposes and that is not designed to carry persons or other living creatures;

        Looks pretty well defined to me.

        I’m not arguing that I agree with current TC regulation. I’m just saying this is what they say.


      2. I was referring to the definition of Built-up area, not UAV. There are other definitions for it within TC. But as you stated the one in the CAR is specific to UAVs and applies in this case. But some often reference other definitions.


  1. That said, some have noted that the distinction between “uanmanned aircraft” and “model aircraft”, the difference being the usage alone, may not stand up in court if challenged and there will be changes coming to remove this distinction and better define that issue.


    1. I agree there is an obvious unfairness. But I’m afraid this artificial barrier to entry favors large operators, who already have TC’s ear in the first place. TC sees restrictive regulation as a way to fulfill it’s public safety mandate. Large operators who have already crossed the bridge and have there blanket SFOC see it as a way to fend off competition and jack prices. Small operators are too disorganized to lobby TC in any meaningful way. The only real pressure I see us putting on TC is by making as many relevant SFOC requests as possible, and harassing them when they exceed the 20 day deadline. Overwhelming TC inspectors with workload is the only meaningful way I can imagine we can motivate them to come up with improved regulation.


      1. Albeit slow at times, the current SFOC process does work. And I’ve head from a few that processing times are actually coming down to a week or so again. I’ve not see any difference between large and small operators in terms of being granted SFOCs. Overwhelming the system does nothing but slow it down for everyone, and with the short resources it isn’t going to force TC into changes, the past has proven that. Getting a blanket SFOC is not that difficult and is the best way for any serious operator to move forward. Yes it times work to do and some waiting time but in the end it is the most flexible. Biggest issue we have now is those trying to skirt the rules and give the industry a black eye in the process.


      2. “Flooding” them hasn’t worked out so well for manufacturers in Ontario who now have to spend about $10,000 and wait 2 years for MoE permission to simply drill a hole in the wall. Unfortunately, this is not how governments work.


  2. My personal experience is that SFOC request delays vary between provinces. I’ve heard people in Alberta say they can get their’s in 10 days or less… But Quebec, where I live, is notoriously slow. Right now, I’ve been waiting for my latest SFOC since January 28th (27 workdays and counting)… AND THIS IS WINTER!
    In which province do you live?
    So saying the wait times are going down may not be totally accurate.
    Experienced companies do get better service. For those who are well known by TC, it’s basically a formality to get the blanket SFOC and operate unhindered for a full year. While my SFOC requests get examined under a microscope and I can’t get a standing SFOC until I endured the tedious process of individual SFOC requests for an undisclosed number of times.
    I’m hoping to get it this year… But I have no way of knowing if I qualify or not.
    In the meantime, I have unhappy clients who won’t do business with me anymore, because I can’t guarantee that I’ll be allowed to do the flight.

    I could also tell you about SFOCs being denied for censorship reasons, but I might be going off topic. 😉

    Suffice to day the SFOC process DOES NOT WORK. It is subjective, irregular, unreliable for businesses, inefficient, and subject to influence by political or public relation concerns.


    1. We are in the Atlantic Region. Our first SFOCs a year ago took 2 weeks or less. The refile of an SFOC in Nov took 6 weeks. I’ve heard now it is back to a week or two. Yes it varies by region lot. We filed around 12 SFOCs before filing for a blanket. We have held a blank since and just renewed under the new regulations first of the year and hold a Standing Restricted Complex SFOC for all of Atlantic Canada. I’ve heard of very few if any people not being able to get an SFOC in this region. Quebec Region seems to be toughest of most.


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