UAV Regs New US vs Proposed Canadian Laws

This week the FAA in the US introduced new regulations around the use of commercial drones which mark a major shift in opening up the industry to far more operators.

While there are a number of similarities between the approach by the US and Canada there are also some important differences.

Here is a quick look at the key elements and differences:


  • Single classification for all UAVs under 55lbs.
  • Aeronautical Knowledge Test will be administered to receive pilot certificate.
  • Pilot must be 16 years old.
  • VLOS Only
  • Cannot operate over people not involved in the operation.
  • Daytime only.
  • Operations in Class G airspace without coordination with ATC.
  • Operations in Class B, C, D, E airspace with ATC permission.
  • Visual Observer is not required.
  • Maximum altitude of 400′ AGL but with provision to be higher if near structures.
  • Airworthiness certification is not required.
  • Excludes recreational model aircraft.
  • No mandatory insurance requirement.


  • 3 size classifications for UAVs under 25kgs.
  • Knowledge test, possibly different levels based on type of use and size of aircraft.
  • A minimum age requirement of 14 while under adult supervision and 16 without
    adult supervision.
  • VLOS Only.
  • Limited ability to fly over public at some levels.
  • Daytime and some limited nighttime operations based on category.
  • Operations in Class G airspace without coordination with ATC.
  • Operations in Class B, C, D, E airspace with ATC coordination.
  • Visual Observer required.
  • Maximum altitude of 400′ AGL.
  • Minimum lateral distance requirements from person, animals, buildings, vehicles, etc
  • Design standard for UAVs in some categories, most commercial systems will require to meet the standard.
  • Restrictions around aerodromes and built up areas for some levels.
  • Removes the regulatory distinction between recreational and non-recreational users.  Exclusion to be made for modelling associations with robust safety guidelines.
  • Insurance required for most types of use.

Key differences:

  • US has no minimum lateral distances, only to not overfly people outside of the shoot.
  • US has no airworthiness certification, Canada may require a level of UAV design standard to be met for some uses.
  • US has no observer requirement.
  • Canadian regs would allow night operations at some levels but not all.
  • Canadian regs would allow flights over people at some levels but not all.

It should be noted that both will also have a waiver or SFOC process for uses that fall outside of the primary regulations which will be accessed on a case by case basis.

Overall it seems Transport Canada is taking a much more complex and risk based approach, which offers some additional flexibility but not without some significant additional requirements. Our view is the Canadian proposed solution is too complex for most general users to fully understand and potentially restricts use to a limited number of certified aircraft; given the less densely populated nation with fewer aircraft it seems to be a very limiting over restrictive approach.

It will be interesting to see how or if Transport Canada changes the proposed regulations before publishing Gazette 1 in spring 2017.

One comment

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