To operate a commercial UAV in Canada you must have a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada. However there are more reasons to have a SFOC beyond just to satisfy the legal needs of the regulator.
Here are some reasons we feel are more important than the potential of a fine alone for applying for a SFOC:
- Liability Insurance
Without an SFOC most all insurance policies are void as coverage is dependent on operating legally. With no coverage you could be left personally liable in the event of an accident. Losing your life savings and home might be a high price to pay in trying to save some time on paperwork to skirt the rules of use.
- Client Requirements
While some operators may see the SFOC as pointless red tape, many clients now require providers to have this and associated insurance in place before they are permitted on client sites as it is a liability risk. Clients also see it as a means to separate the good from the bad operators as currently it is the only official means to show who is approved to use a drone commercially.
If your running a legitimate business then doing so within the laws that govern an industry are a core component to being a professional. Working outside the law doesn’t instill confidence or respect in customers or peers, and will make it hard to grow a long term business when it comes time for funding or outside investment and partnerships with other businesses.
- Risk Management
While a lot of the SFOC application process can seem a bit pointless in regards to actually going out and flying the drone, at it’s core it is basically about risk management. Going through the process to create an application forces you to consider processes and procedures to handle a variety of situations that can occur when operating a UAV. Without being forced to document these SOPs many drone pilots may not give risk management as much thought as they should or not consider many factors.
- Knowledge of Air Law
For those coming to the drone industry with no previous aviation experience there can be a lot of new concepts to understand. The SFOC process forces the applicant to research many of these topics as they relate to the rules of the sky and the associated procedures of coordinating with air traffic control, interacting with agencies such as Nav Canada, and so on.
That said there is still always the possibility of a fine, and there are cases of fines being laid for UAV use without an SFOC or in violation of SFOC terms, and in the event of an accident you can be assured that Transport Canada will start digging into the details of what was being done and if the proper paperwork was in place, but as noted above the fine alone may not be the most important factor. While it may seem like an uphill battle, the benefits outweigh the risks in the end and can better prepare you for a place in the industry long term and make you a safer more professional service provider.
Fly safe, fly smart, get an SFOC.
Flitelab.com offers SFOC consulting services for those looking for assistance in the process. Contact us for details on how we can help get you operate safely & legally – firstname.lastname@example.org