New Canadian Drone Rules – Recreational vs Commercial Confusion

Since the changes to the recreational drone regulations in Canada back in mid March there has been a lot of push back from users upset with the restrictions limiting where they can now fly.  As we wrote about previously, most urban areas are now almost completely off limits to recreational drone use with the new regulations.

As part of the chatter around the new laws we often see comments from photographers, film makers, and others using their drone in parts of their work that are upset with the changes and that it limits their use.

However, the new regulations only impact “recreational” use, and as such have no impact on commercial applications.

In the eyes of Transport Canada recreational use is seen as being purely for fun. Anything that is not 100% for personal enjoyment falls outside the scope of recreational use and requires an SFOC or Exemption for legal use.

Even use for passion/indie projects where there may be no direct profit or payment from a client would fall into this area.  This also applies to search & rescue, research, and use on ones own property, all being “non-recreational”.  Taking photos for a friend’s house listing, selling prints, even footage for non profit organizations, use for your own marketing & social promotion, etc all are commercial in nature under the regulations.  If the drone is being used as a tool to collect footage for part of something more than the enjoyment of flying then it probably would not be considered recreational.

Transport Canada has even gone so far to say that use of footage on YouTube could be considered non recreational and subject to needing an SFOC, although this is still a grey area and yet to be tested.

That said if you are using a drone directly or indirectly for collecting photos and video for projects or business then you most likely need to follow the non-recreational rules to be legal.  Otherwise you could face potential fines and be personally liable if an accident were to happen.

For more information on applying for an SFOC, see this most recent article – “Overview of National UAV SFOC Application Form” covering the new National application form.

Additional information can be found throughout the blog as well, or for more direct assistance we also offer SFOC consulting as a service, see here for full details – SFOC Application Consulting Services


  1. I still can’t seem to find any standard information on the restrictions of Height and Distance for commercial operators? or is this something to varies depending on job?


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