UAV NPA Comments & Feedback

commentsThe following are our comments and feedback sent to Transport Canada as part of the Notice of Proposed Amendment – Unmanned Air Vehicles process.

1. APPLICABILITY
Applicability to UAVs under 25kg and flown LOS makes sense and is in line with the context of the NPA and regulations to date. Main concern is ensuring it encompasses ALL usage of UAVs, both commercial and recreational which currently the regulations do not.

One area that should also be addresses is special use cases such as with first responders where proximity to accidents/fires/etc is part of the operational use.  Including this in the new regulations would make things easier for these groups to make use of UAVs as opposed to having to do an external process or special SFOC.

2. MODEL AIRCRAFT
The issue of model aircraft vs UAVs and recreational vs commercial use is a tricky one but a current grey area/loophole that needs to be addressed.

Tying the classification to having a camera payload is not a good approach in that it links it to very specific technology.  As the industry and devices evolve it may not be a “camera” that becomes the payload of choice, some new sensors or other payloads may become the common application so we feel it is best to not link the regulations to such a specific element.

If the focus of the regulations are around safety then the regulations should apply regardless of how it is being used.  A recreational user is within the same airspace as a commercial user. As such most of the same regulations and guidelines should apply.

We would like to see a licensing/permitting system similar to small pleasure craft or automobile licensing where in ALL operators require to take some sort of test to ensure a minimum level of knowledge on safety and proper use.

3. TERMINOLOGY AND DEFINITIONS
A key factor to consider in the definitions and terminology is the target audience.  The rapid growth is UAVs has opened use up to a much larger and non traditional aviation audience than what Transport Canada traditionally deals with in aviation.  

How the media is going to spin this terminology is also of importance, if the official terms are too complex for their audience to understand they will make up their own, such is the case now where “UAV” or “UAS” are rarely used and “drone” is the term of choice.

Take the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) approach.  The general public may not understand complex technical and aviation specific terms.  If the details cannot be easily understood then they will be ignored. Know your audience and use the appropriate language to best suit that audience.

4. CATEGORIZATION OF THE REGULATORY STRUCTURE
As with the notes above on definitions and terminology it is critical to try and keep this simple and understandable by not only those involved in aviation but the general public which will make up a large portion of the UAV user base.

Again, take the KISS approach. The more categories the more confusion over which one applies.  If it is not explicitly clear where someone’s UAV falls they will default to the category that gives them the most flexibility, which may be incorrect.  The current exemptions ended up being used in this fashion, people read the highlights and ignore the details and assume something applies to them as that is what they want to do.

One category for all UAVs under 25kg flown LOS would keep things simple and easier to be managed.  Less confusion when a single set of regulations apply across the board and keeps the playing field fair for all operators.

If multiple categories are deemed necessary we would suggest that each category have a unique and distinct name.  Currently all three are variations on the same wording “Small UAV”, this just leads to confusion.

The bigger issue comes from confusion around what category a given user’s system falls as it is not merely based on the size or weight, but also on where and how it is being used and proximity to various elements.  For the general public this is going to be a complex set of parameters to understand, wherein if they fly their system at location A it might fall under one category, but when flown at location B it is another.  The reality is consumers are going to buy a system and assume they can fly it at their cottage in the country or at their home in the city and that it all is the same since it is one device.  Most people will not be aware of how close they are to an aerodrome for example, many will think of major airports and little else meanwhile they may be flying next to an emergency helipad at a hospital with no knowledge it exists.

If the regulations are to be based on where/when/how then a very clear system to define those items in simple language will be needed.  As well easy to read and understand tables/charts/maps should be used to aid in clarifying these items.  Complex definitions buried in CARs and other Transport Canada documents and footnotes will go unread.

5. SMALL UAV (COMPLEX OPERATIONS)
This category we feel will be the largest among the current aerial photo/video service providers currently working under SFOCs.  The majority of these types of operations are done close to urban areas and most urban centers have some level of aerodrome/helipad.

UAV Operator Certificate Requirements
We have no specific concerns with the operator requirements, any operator should have proper management and documentation standards and systems in place to operate safely and effectively. Only concern is with the note on basing the criteria around company/employee size and if this may lead to some smaller operations being excluded based on company size alone.

Having all operators across all categories register with Transport Canada we feel is a good requirement.

Aircraft Marking and Registration
No issues with this requirement and feel it is a good step forward in assisting with identification and accountability. Main concern will be on sizing and placement of markings being flexible enough to meet all aircraft types.  Many multicopters have limited surfaces to allow for markings to be placed.

The processing time for getting aircraft registered is also of concern, in that it could put many operators on hold while awaiting registration.  A process to stagger this requirement in is suggested.

Personnel Licensing and Training
No issues with this approach.  Permits will be much easier to manage than a licensing system. Only note would be to make sure knowledge requirements are in line with actual UAV knowledge and skills and not a rehash of full scale aviation requirements which may not always apply especially dealing with a small LOS flight area.

Not requiring training centers to be certified is a good approach to keep things open and flexible and allow operators to select the best style of training/learning that meets their needs and will allow for a variety of businesses to develop around the training aspects of the industry.

Not requiring AME licensing for UAV maintenance makes sense and a good approach.  These aircraft differ greatly from full scale and thus have unique set of skills in their maintenance and gives flexibility of the owner/operator to maintain their own systems which a large number do currently.  The technology also changes rapidly making any certified skills easily outdated.

Airworthiness
Main concern here is with meeting the design standard for the UAV.  Many of these systems are custom one of creations built and maintained by the operator.  There should be a means to allow for “home built” aircraft to achieve the standards without expensive testing.  As these aircraft are only used within LOS with tight restrictions on areas of operation and boundaries to people and structure we feel that holding them to full sized aviation standards seems overkill.  At this point until the design standard becomes finalized it is difficult to comment further.

General Operating and Flight Rules
These are much in line with existing rules and should be sufficient for most UAV usage.

Operating within vicinity of forest fire may be an issue with some operators which may be working with or part of a first responder group.  There should be some flexibility added to allow for use in such circumstances.

6. SMALL UAV (LIMITED OPERATIONS)
This class should most likely be merged with Complex Operations.  It seems to add a lot of confusion and extra documentation and management to separate these into two separate classes.  Currently this would fall under the Exemptions which have caused a lot of confusion and instances where operators assumed they applied when they in fact did not.

7. VERY SMALL UAV (LOWER THRESHOLD)
This category could possibly encompass a large portion of the recreational users as well as small scale AP/AV operators that deal with real estate and similar small scale jobs. The concern here is that it probably has the lowest level of aviation experience and knowledge.  We would prefer to see a single category for all UAVs under 25kg flown LOS.

One issue to keep in mind is that many operators make use of multiple UAVs and in some cases some of the fleet will fall into the low threshold.  As technologies advance in regards to better smaller cameras and sensors and improved battery technology, we may see more growth in this category. As noted previously, a single classification for all UAVs flown LOS under 25kg would be much simpler to understand and manage.

UAV Operator Certificate Requirements
We have no specific concerns with the operator requirements, any operator should have proper management and documentation standards and systems in place to operate safely and effectively. Only concern is with the note on basing the criteria around company/employee size and if this may lead to some smaller operations being excluded based on company size alone.

Aircraft Marking and Registration
Having a requirement for identification markings is probably sufficient if it can be made standard.

Personnel Licensing and Training
As with the other classes there should be requirement for a pilot permit.  These systems operate in the same airspace thus all operators should have a basic level of knowledge of the associated rules and regulations.

Airworthiness
Not requiring the design standard is a good approach given the limited flight zone these systems are operated LOS.  This approach could be applied across all categories given these limited flight parameters.

General Operating and Flight Rules
These rules seem sufficient for those operating within this class.  Main concern is with the removal of requiring liability insurance.  This should apply the same across all categories.

8. SPECIAL FLIGHT OPERATIONS CERTIFICATE
We are glad to see the SFOC process will remain in place.  We feel this is critical to address any edge cases and exceptions that the new regulations may not address.  UAV technology advances quickly and could easily evolve outside what the NPA is targeted at.  The SFOC provides the means to always allow a process for exceptions and special cases and thus needs to be retained to ensure ongoing flexibility.

9. FOREIGN OPERATORS
We have no issues with the inclusion of processes for allowing foreign operators as long as this is a two way street and opens the doors for Canadian operators to work abroad as well. Exclusion of the Very Small UAV category makes sense as it implies smaller scale operators that may not have the processes and procedures in place for working outside their localized environment.

Other Comments and Suggestions

Enforcement
Without enforcement it makes no difference what rules may be on the books.  Users need to understand that there are penalties to breaking the rules and that they are indeed enforced.  What is currently happening is many choose to operate illegally because the potential to be caught is small or nil.  A process to publicize these offenses would also go a long way in educating the community on the ramifications or not following the regulations.

The addition of RCMP and local law enforcement agencies will go a long way as well in improving the ability to handle enforcement.

Point of Sale Education
With the general public becoming a large consumer of these systems it will be critical to help educate at the point of sale. Involving big box stores and local hobby shops would help improve the knowledge at the initial point of contact.

Community/Media Outreach
Again to assist in the education of the public it would be helpful for Transport Canada or associated agencies to participate in more grass roots community outreach sessions.  Speaking to local groups, companies, organizations as well as at events would be a means to improve the face to face education and spread knowledge on the regulations.

The media to date have often misread/misreported the regulations and specifics of UAVs.  Bringing them more on board would be a major step forward in communicating to the public and ensuring they are giving correct information.

Summary
In summary the main areas of concerns we have are as follows:

  • Keeping the regulations simple and easy to understand for non traditional aviation users. Multiple categories, complex terminology merely confuses the situation. A single category and regulations for all UAVs flown LOS under 25kg would be the preferred approach.
  • Removing the grey area between recreational & commercial use is critical.  There should be a single standard across the board if the underlying purpose of the regulations is for safety.
  • Enforcement of the regulations is key, otherwise they will be abused regardless of what rules are on the books.

2 comments

  1. Coming to this thread a bit late…

    My two cents:

    I think either I or others are misunderstanding the references to ‘Operators’ in the NPA. I don’t believe they are proposing restrictions based on company size/number of employees. The opposite, in fact. It is the requirement to go through the certification process as an operator that is being proposed for larger organizations, because larger organizations need to demonstrate greater degrees of supervision and quality control, adherence to procedures, etc. Compliance is more likely to slip when you have a lot of employees operating under a single permission.

    Smaller companies are going to be exempt from the need to certify as Operators, not excluded from anything. (there’s no other logical reason to arbitrarily restrict permission to ‘larger organizations’. And no, I don’t believe Transport Canada’s ‘on the take’.). The wording could have been clearer.

    Second point: great respect to the people here at Flitelab for the amazing resource you’re assembling. But… please let me discourage you from encouraging TC to lump all small operators under 25 kg together in the name of simplification. Whether we like it or not, ‘simplification’ will invariably mean saddling all operators with the restrictions suitable for the most dangerous ones (eg the 25kg machines). It never means the opposite (letting 25 kg machines operate as though they were 2 kg machines). It can’t.

    The worldwide trend is to recognize that very small machines (sub-2 kg) are especially low risk and don’t need to be regulated as much. TC is even proposing dropping the insurance requirement for this size. (There’s no way they’re dropping the insurance requirement if it means including 20 kg ‘flying lawnmowers’). It is counterproductive for us fliers to be criticising the regulators for trying to be more permissive. We should never be doing it, basically. (Unless we have an agenda).

    You may not have any use for the proposed Very Small exemption (yet), but others will.

    I submitted my own comments to TC on the RPA, including some additional points:

    –imploring them to go with the ‘Very Small’ exemption and to be flexible in defining it by allowing larger-than-2kg machines with more limited max speeds (verified, for example, with flight logs). Pointing out that a rigid ‘2 kg and nothing else’ defination will encourage people to cut corners on airframes to squeeze under the 2 kg, thus increasing risk.

    –imploring them to consider that the field is developing at break-neck speed, and that innovation in airframes and payloads is incompatible with restricting operators to ‘approved commercial airframes’.

    –requesting more specific guidance on what is a ‘built up area’. I pointed out that much of the country is covered with farmsteads, cottages, etc which may or may not be ‘isolated’ from those that are 10s, or hundreds, of metres away. And therefore, we may or may not be allowed to fly anywhere within kilometres of them, depending on what ‘isolated’ means.

    –discouraging a blanket resistance to lasers and to video-assisted flight control, on the grounds that LIDAR increases safety,and onboard streaming video does, too, for those on the ground (because multi-rotor orientation is very, very confusing, and thus dangerous, from the ground only).

    And a few more.

    Thanks for listening, and keep up the great work here.

    George

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