Regulated out of the Canadian UAV Business?

With the announcement of the upcoming new UAV regulations over a year ago in the NPA from Transport Canada there has been a lot of hope that the new rules will open things up in Canada for everyone.  However it seems many have overlooked a small but critical item within these proposed regulations that could effectively ground many of the UAVs currently in use by small/medium sized aerial service companies in Canada.

The key element in the new regulations is the requirement of UAVs in the two Small UAV classifications (Limited Operations & Complex Operations) to meet a Design Standard.  These two classes will be where most operators currently using Restricted Complex SFOCs will fall within the new system.

Meeting the Design Standard basically is the equivalent of being a “Compliant UAV” under existing regulations, which currently only a very small number of industrial systems are (Draganfly, Aeryon, Sensefly).


It is also proposed that manufacturers of a small UAV system be required to declare that the UAV system meets a design standard for UAV systems for this category

The intent of a design standard is to provide an increased level of assurance in the safety of the UAV system. If such a design standard is not published as part of the proposed rulemaking efforts, Transport Canada would need a more restrictive regulatory regime to mitigate the increased risk of operating UAVs, that have not been built to any safety standard, near or over persons and near other aviation activities.

Those that currently use systems such as those from DJI, 3DR, Freefly, or custom built UAVs could effectively be grounded unless the manufacturers choose to meet this design standard requirement.

Give the small size of the Canadian commercial UAV market this could be more effort than it is worth for many drone manufacturers considering very few have done so to date with the Compliant status.

It should be noted that the draft regulations that make up the NPA were created for the most part by an industry working group at Unmanned Systems Canada, of which some of the current Compliant UAV’s manufacturers are part of.  Regulations that may be good for Canadian UAV manufacturers may be the oppose for the small operator.

Where this may end up is yet to be determined as we have yet to see the next phase in the regulator process for the new regulations and what changes to the draft that could be made, and recent word is it may be mid to late 2017 before they come into effect.

These changes could have a drastic impact on existing operators.  Now is the time to speak up if you have concerns.  While the comment period for the NPA is closed there is still an opportunity to bring issues up with your MP, Minister of Transport, and Unmanned Systems Canada.  Make your concerns known or many could be looking for other options.


  1. Mark, I couldn’t agree more, I wrote an article on this some months ago as well.

    I have been offering some basic guidance to Event38 since they are keen on becoming compliant and Mark Wuenenburg of TC indicated, “The intent behind the program is that the manufacturer and owner share responsibility for the aircraft airworthiness so that there is less government intervention required”, the program being the requirement for DOC and SOC.

    It’s a nice thought but practically it stifles business and is flawed. There is no “shared” responsibility since if the manufacture doesn’t conform since we can’t use their product to fly commercially full stop.

    The simple solution is to have qualifying technical criteria, without a need for the manufacturer to sign anything since this would reach the same end. There is no additional provision for public safety in my view whether the manufacturer specs are signed off by the company or not so long as the criteria are met. If this were in place practically the biggest problem would be getting proprietary information out of the manufacturers, equally difficult in some cases.

    Additionally, they could vet models via test centers linked to training and then add cleared models to a dbase of approved crafts but of course they will not do this since legally they are risk adverse: they won’t even “approve” trainers as in the UK since they don’t want to take ownership of it.

    Separately, I had been after DJI for about 3 months to get them to start the process for the DOC/SOC and even provided them completed documents/links etc and it’s clear that they simply do not care about the commercial market in Canada.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s