Canadian Drone Laws & the Misinformed Press

xIt is an all too common occurrence to see a news article on the commercial use of drones in Canada and to have the regulations for such use misstated by the journalist.

This recent Globe & Mail article is a case in point:

Anyone operating a drone that weighs more than 25 kilograms must apply for permission to Transport Canada, which oversees the regulations, for a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC). It’s not a terribly difficult process; the Canadian government issued 1,527 such approvals between 2010 and 2013.

While this quote is correct in part, it mixes the recreational requirements for an SFOC for aircraft over 25kg with an article focused on commercial drone use.  The end result is a statement that is incorrect and misleads new folks looking to get into the business.

For those involved in the commercial UAV industry these stories are a source of frustration.  Anyone having applied for an SFOC knows it is more than “not a terribly difficult process”.  It takes a lot of time and research to do properly, something many journalists seem to overlook.

Transport Canada is partially to blame for much of the confusion.  The announcement of the UAV Exemptions has lead many to believe that much of the commercial use is exempt from needing an SFOC.  However the devil is in the details and there are many more requirements outside of the weight alone.  Far too many people take a quick glance at the Infographic and assume they are good to go.

It seems that in the rush to report on the latest cool new gadgets that actual research and investigation goes out the window, and journalist merely rehash quick summaries that are often wrong or at least misleading. A bit more time and effort would produce a much more informative, and more importantly correct article.


  1. Very good points. The 9 km distance from built-up areas (i.e. anything larger than a homestead) required to qualify for an exemption makes it almost impossible to use. This is true even for sites that we want to survey in remote areas of NWT. And if you make an honest mistake in applying this exemption, this could easily open you up to $$ penalties because of the self-reporting requirements for UAVs > 2 kg.


    1. Exactly. and operators need to be aware that the onus to operate properly is on them. So you can’t just assume something applies to your situation. TC really needs to better clarify these issues.We hear from people all the time assuming their Phantom is free to use anywhere due to the weight. I’ve even had some tell me they spent a lot of time research the regulations and still think exemptions apply even in clearly urban areas.


  2. ‘Every time I read a news story about a subject I know something about, they get it wrong. I therefore assume that everything I read in the news is wrong’ (Mark Twain?)



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