New Canadian Drone Exams – Asking Stupid Questions

With the release of the new Canadian drone regulations on Jan 9 2019 came the requirement for all users to pass either a Basic or Advanced online exam.

The supposed purpose of the exams were to ensure user knowledge, especially when it comes to safe use of drones, so as to ensure there are no ongoing issues near airports or the public that could result in accidents.

However this is where things go off the rails.  Instead of exams that focus on the safe use of the aircraft, focusing on the regulations around when and where you can fly, the exam goes off on tangents at times, pulling endless aviation jargon and technical details into the mix.

While we cannot go into the specifics on questions, as that would violate the regulations, case in point is a question around the definition of a “stabilator“.  Given that the vast majority of consumer drones are quadcopters, such as those commonly sold by DJI, which do not have traditional fixed wing control surfaces, especially less common ones as a stabilator, we question the purpose and logic of questions like this even being in the mix.

Others dig into the details of laminar flow and reading VNC charts.  Perhaps the Minister is hoping to develop the next generation of astronauts…

Many of the questions seem to be pulled directly from an existing pool for full scale manned aviation, not ones tailored to drones or the consumer market.

When you ask obtuse obscure irrelevant questions you lose the opportunity to educate and merely make clear to the user the pointlessness of the exam itself.  Instead of trying to learn in the process, users hitting these type of questions become frustrated and merely cheat their way through to get it over with, and see it is little more than a hurdle of red tape.

It would be like asking to explain how a limited-slip differential works during a driving test.  I suspect most would fail.

In a very limited test of 30 questions you have a small opportunity to try and stress the critical elements, which presumably are around safe use, so the focus of the exam should be towards those elements, once that every user needs to know and understand, not 1% edge cases or interesting aeronautical tidbits & definitions.

We have seen many causes already of people simply Googling the answers and in some cases asking for help in real time on social media for the answers.  A recent case on Facebook had one person posting screenshots of the test as he went asking others to give the answers.  After failing the test 3 previous times he was finally able to pass with the feedback provided.  What exactly does this accomplish when it comes to aviation and public safety?

Transport Canada has missed the mark with their approach in the new regulations, especially around the exams.  They clearly do not understand the target audience both in terms of what they should know to fly safely or even in terms of using everyday common language vs technical aviation jargon.

If you want an effective set of regulations they need to be easy to understand, easy to follow, and easy to enforce.  If they are not then people will either find work arounds or ignore them all together.  The new drone regulations for Canada miss on all marks.

15 comments

  1. I completely agree with the points in this article. The purpose of the UAV regulations is to educate the UAV user community and ensure safe practice. These irrelevant questions do nothing more then confuse the topic and take up space on a page.

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    1. Did you expect anything more from our amazing government system, some idiot that no as no idea and probably has never flown a drone just pulled these questions out of his ass in his little cubicle corner out of a few books he picked up at the library obviously somebody was put in charge that knew absolutely fuck all what they’re supposed to be doing I think this test is going to confuse the general drone user and will make things worse and even more mishaps will happen, as usual the government as its ass up and its head with unqualified people ,the problem is people get degrees in areas that do not pertain to the job that they are being hired for I can honestly see way more incidents happening with this hideous test .one more step to a communist country

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  2. this is why I will not be taking this test – TC obviously does not understand the aircraft hobbiest – I will continue to fly my 450g racing quads and foam planes in a safe manner as I always have without TC

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  3. Your comments reflect my feelings exactly,several times during the exam I wondered if I had clicked onthe Advanced category by mistake.Several questions seemed well beyond my scope as a hobbyist and I really think TC should rethink this

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  4. I’m wondering how much involved those “drone schools” were during the upstream work of this new law. In fact they are all now proposing costly courses that are backed by TC…. hmmm (make it difficult enough so that people will feel justified to take courses. New business has been created).

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  5. Agrees 100%, the basic exam question seems reasonable but some of the question in the advanced exam is totally irrelevant to UAV or RPAS. They reuse some of the question from real Pilot knowledge nut irrelevant to RPAS. I was thinking maybe they want to cover all pilots from commercial quadcopter to military fix wings? But then why don’t they combine helicopter with airplane in 1 category.

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    1. Which are the best materials for studying for the basic exam. I am a private pilot but not have flown for a number of years, wondering how much i will recall when needed . Thanks

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      1. I would review the Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual as well as being familiar with the new Part IX RPAS regulations. A lot of the questions are based on general aviation with some ambiguous drone related items. Weather related items also make up a large portion.

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  6. Shame on Marc Garneau and Transport Canada. I have failed this test twice and even if you knew this information then it would be useless in the field for drone flying. It doesn’t have to be this difficult. Very disappointed with all this tripe.

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    1. Agree wholeheartedly. This exam should consist of 6 to 10 questions with all answers in a 5 page booklet. WAKE UP CANADIAN GOVERNMENT AND MARC GARNEAU. You are making something long and stressful that doesn’t need to be. We ARE NOT flipping astronauts.

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