To help clarify some of the current confusion and misleading information on UAV/drone use in Canada, we have put together a short list of facts on the subject:
- UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles), or more commonly called drones, are regulated by Transport Canada.
- To use these systems commercially the operator requires an SFOC (Special Flight Operations Certificate) or an Exemption, and associated UAV liability insurance.
- Exemptions are very restrictive in nature and typically cannot be used in most areas, and generally only allow for flights in very remote areas.
- Recreational use of drones have very few regulations currently, however Transport Canada has a set of guidelines for safe use.
- Commercial use is better defined as “non-recreational use”. Any use of a UAV that is not 100% “for fun” is deemed “commercial” and thus requires an SFOC or Exemption. This even applies to uses such as search & rescue, academic/research, use by non-profit organizations, internal use by companies even on their own property. Money does not need to change hands to be considered commercial use.
- All SFOCs are unique and conditions can vary from operator to operator, however the following are fairly common elements:
- Cannot fly over public/buildings/property outside of the main operation.
- Need to maintain 100′ distance to those outside the operation.
- Generally altitude is restricted to 400′ and below.
- Must keep the UAV within line of sight at all times.
- Drones must always give way to manned aircraft.
- Remain at least 5nm from forest fires.
- Commercial use also require aviation specific liability insurance to be in place as a condition of the SFOC/Exemption. General liability policies typically exclude drone use.
- Beyond the SFOC/Exemption there is no “pilot license” or permit currently available. Operators must meet a specific set of knowledge requirements but there is no certified training, it can come from a number of sources including self study options.
- New regulations are currently in development by Transport Canada, but at this stage they may be delayed until 2017.
There is a lot of misleading and confusing information currently floating around on the topic of UAVs. Be sure to take the time to research before you jump into the industry, use multiple sources to confirm specifics. At the end of the day the onus is on the user to be using drones safely and legally. Think before you fly.