Author: flitelab

Servicing the commercial and recreational Canadian UAV market. From parts & components, to consulting & support, through to full aerial imaging services.

Aerodromes vs Airports

One area of confusion when it comes to dealing with Transport Canada aviation regulations is the subtle differences between aerodrome and airport.  While the definitions are very similar and overlap there are slight differences that impact which regulations may apply and how they are applied.

The following document on the TC website provides further details: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/publications/tp13549-chapter6-406.htm

Aerodrome or airport—what’s the difference?
The terms airport and aerodrome are often used interchangeably by the aviation industry; legislation and regulation—at least in Canada—make primary use of the latter. For instance, the Canadian Aeronautics Act defines an aerodrome as:

“Any area of land, water (including the frozen surface thereof) or other supporting surface used, designed, prepared, equipped or set apart for use either in whole or in part for the arrival, departure movement or servicing thereon or associated therewith.”

Aerodrome categories
There are three different categories of aerodromes, each presenting progressively different safety requirements. In order of ascending safety level, the categories are listed below:

  • aerodromes (small airstrips located on private property that are neither registered nor certified),
  • registered aerodromes, and
  • certified aerodromes, referred to as airports.

Registered aerodromes
While listed, registered aerodromes are not certified as airports in the Canada Flight Supplement (CFS)—a publication for pilots containing operating information for registered aerodromes and airports. Registered aerodromes are not subject to ongoing inspection by Transport Canada; however, they are inspected periodically to verify compliance with Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) and to ensure the accuracy of information published in the CFS and the Water Aerodrome Supplement (WAS). In spite of these efforts, pilots planning to use a registered aerodrome are still expected to contact aerodrome operators to confirm CFS information is current.

Certified aerodromes
Airports are aerodromes certified under Subsection 302.03 of the CARs. Despite regulations that govern registered and non-registered aerodromes, the onus remains on a pilot to determine whether an aerodrome is safe and suitable. Regulations are in place primarily to protect those unfamiliar with an airport environment—the fare-paying public and those residing in the vicinity who could be affected by unsafe airport operations.

So it summary, an airport is a certified aerodrome as per the Canadian Flight Supplement & Water Aerodrome Supplement designations.

New Canadian Drone Regulations – People, Buildings, Vehicles

One of the biggest changes in  the new Canadian drone regulations on Jan 9 2019 are around minimum distances allowed to people, buildings, and vehicles.

Gone are the restrictions to buildings and vehicles for both Basic and Advanced operations.  The primary requirement being to stay 30M from bystanders.  Flights over vehicles and buildings are permitted, as long as their are no freestanding people.

Horizontal Distance

901.26 Subject to paragraph 901.69(1)(b) or (c), no pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft at a distance of less than 100 feet (30 m) from another person, measured horizontally and at any altitude, except from a crew member or other person involved in the operation.

The exclusion of occupied vehicles and buildings was confirmed by Katelin Klassen of COASTAL DRONE in a recent review with the TC RPAS Task Force:

The 100′ horizontal distance from people mentioned in CAR 901.26 means freestanding bodies. “People” does not refer to those in cars or buildings. Asking people to step inside while you fly is totally reasonable under the new regulations.

One additional item of note near buildings is the ability to exceed the base 400′ AGL altitude limit as well, allowing 100′ above the structure if you are within 200′:

Maximum Altitude

901.25 (1) Subject to subsection (2), no pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft at an altitude greater than

(a) 400 feet (122 m) AGL; or
(b) 100 feet (30 m) above any building or structure, if the aircraft is being operated at a distance of less than 200 feet (61 m), measured horizontally, from the building or structure.

For Advanced operations the distance to bystanders can be further reduced, but is dependent on the assurance level the manufacture has approved for the UAV.  The details on the specifics are still unknown and TBA by TC.

901.69 (1) Subject to subsection (2), no pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system under this Division to conduct any of the following operations unless a declaration under section 901.76 has been made in respect of that model of system and the certificate of registration issued in respect of the aircraft specifies the operations for which the declaration was made:

(a) operations in controlled airspace;
(b) operations at a distance of less than 100 feet (30 m) but not less than 16.4 feet (5 m) from another person except from a crew member or other person involved in the operation, measured horizontally and at any altitude; or
(c) operations at a distance of less than 16.4 feet (5 m) from another person, measured horizontally and at any altitude.

The exception to this is at advertised events.  These will still require an SFOC for drone operations.

Special Aviation Events and Advertised Events

901.41 (1) No pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system at any special aviation event or at any advertised event except in accordance with a special flight operations certificate — RPAS issued under section 903.03.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), advertised event means an outdoor event that is advertised to the general public, including a concert, festival, market or sporting event.

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.

New Canadian Drone Regulations – Putting an Industry in Limbo

After years of drafts, reworks, and delays, Transport Canada finally released the new Canadian drone regulations on Jan 9 2019.  Set to come into effect on June 1 2019, the regulations are still missing key details when it comes to Advanced operations involving compliant/SAFE assured drones.

Under the changes, any flights done within controlled airspace or near aerodromes require a compliant/SAFE assured drone.  Many commonly used systems, such as those from DJI, Yuneec, Freefly, and others are not on the existing compliant list and details required for manufacturers to submit systems to the list are still not published.

As such much of the industry are in a wait and see limbo phase where many operators do not know when or if their existing drones may be usable or what new UAVs they may have to purchase and at what cost to move forward.

While the existing list has systems that can be used, many do not meet the needs for certain application, such as TV/film work as one example.  Many are older industrial focused aircraft, and carry a much higher price tag than consumer/prosumer drones used by many smaller operators across the country.

Originally Transport Canada had stated there would be a 6 month transition period from the announcement to enforcement, however with core documents still not published the time-frame shrinks even more from the less than 5 months given.

Manufacturers, such as DJI, are waiting on these specifics to decide how they will move forward and what systems they may submit for assurance:

A key component of these new rules is the Safety Assured Flight Envelope system, through which manufacturers will declare that their drones are suitable for use in advanced operations, such as over people or in controlled airspace. DJI will be examining the details of the SAFE system with the goal of participating in it, to continue to provide leading products for our commercial and enterprise customers in Canada.

While we expect more manufacturers will come on-board, it is doubtful that all systems will be added, especially older units, with potential focus on only enterprise level to be available.  The time frame for new systems getting approved is also unknown and could possibly run past June 1.  Time will tell where this goes as manufactures review the time, costs, and associated liability of making submissions.

Alan Auld, a commercial operator in Ontario stated:

I was awarded a city contract for this summer that I’ll have to give up as a result. I’m a small business (filmmaker) who’s had a standing for three years without issue using DJI products. I can’t justify the approved equipment for the market I’m in so I’ll be walking away.

Alan, like many other small commercial operators, has been operating for years under the Special Flight Operations Certificate(SFOC) process, flying safely and legally within controlled airspace without issue.  A process that required liability insurance, which is oddly not even required under the new regulations.  Come June 1 what was once deemed allowable and safe by Transport Canada ends, and unapproved UAVs sent to collect dust.

Businesses trying to plan upcoming work beyond June 1 or that have ongoing contracts with clients throughout the year are now left in the dark.

Art Raham of Shadow Art Camera Services in Edmonton commented:

I had discussions with two clients yesterday wanting to quote on projects for the summer. Both disappointed that I couldn’t guarantee my availability or day rate past June 1.

Transport Canada is giving no prior credit for safe & legal operation for existing commercial operators, it is comply on June 1 with new regulations fully or be grounded.  Years of ongoing flight operations count towards nothing in regards to the flight review that is required under an Advance certificate either.

While most operators are in favor of the general concepts of the new regulations, the big gotcha is the compliant/assured UAVs that put ongoing businesses at risk in this transition.

As an interim solution we would suggest that Transport Canada grandfather in systems currently in use by operators under SFOCs until the end of life of those UAVs, or as a minimum extend the implementation of the new regulations to January 1 2020 so as to provide a proper transitional period, along with an exception from the flight review.  This would allow existing operators to maintain their businesses over the immediate future with minimal change while allowing time for planning a new path forward.

While the new regulations are being touted by Transport Canada as a major step forward, the reality is many businesses are left hovering in place not knowing if they can fly come June.

New Canadian Drone Regulations – Exam Prep Courses

Looking to prepare for the new Canadian drone exams?
Checkout Coastal Drone Aviation:

Exam Prep | Basic Get yourself ready for the Basic Category knowledge exam! 

Exam Prep | Advanced Get yourself ready for the Advanced Category knowledge exam!

Practice with Transport Canada style multiple choice questions plus learn about the new regulations and how they may affect you.

Use coupon code “SFOC” for a 10% discount.

They also offer full ground school courses for those needing a more in-depth study.

New Canadian Drone Regulations – Flight Review

As part of the new drone regulations in Canada, in effect on June 1 2019, it is a requirement to pass a flight review as part of the Advanced Operations permit.

The items that must be performed for review are are outlined in TP 15263 Appendix A as per the following:

Pre-flight planning procedures

Knowledge requirements for Visual line of sight operations
Small basic operation Small advanced operation Topics
n/a applies Plan a flight of at least 15 minutes duration simulating a normal operational sRPAS flight which shall, at a minimum, include one (1) take-off and one (1) full stop landing.

The small RPAS pilot operating within visual line of sight must be able to:

  • Provide a satisfactory site survey;
  • Brief flight crew or visual observers of any duties they are to perform or any other information relevant to the flight;
  • Use appropriate and current aeronautical charts and other current flight publications;
  • Properly identify airspace, obstructions, and terrain features;
  • Select a safe and efficient take-off location and flight route;
  • Obtain all pertinent information about local air routes and aerodromes;
  • Retrieve and interpret weather information and NOTAM relevant to the intended flight;
  • Determine the acceptability of existing or forecast weather conditions;
  • Select the most favourable and appropriate altitudes, considering weather conditions and equipment limitations;
  • Determine the appropriate departure procedure;
  • Make a competent “GO/NO-GO” decision based on available information for the flight;
  • Demonstrate that the weights and center of gravity are within acceptable manufactures limits;
  • Determine the impact on their sRPAS operations, of unserviceability of equipment or equipment configuration changes for the proposed flight; and
  • Organize and arrange material and equipment in a manner that makes the items readily available.

Emergency procedures

Knowledge requirements for Visual line of sight operations
Small basic operation Small advanced operation Topics
n/a applies Demonstrate the procedures to be used when an emergency occurs.

The small RPAS pilot operating within visual line of sight must be able to:

  • Describe emergency procedures that apply to your sRPAS;
  • Describe the lost-link procedures that apply to your sRPAS;
  • Describe the procedures to follow in the event of a fly-away, including who to contact.

Perform a take-off

Knowledge requirements for Visual line of sight operations
Small basic operation Small advanced operation Topics
n/a applies Perform an organized and efficient safe departure

The small RPAS pilot operating within visual line of sight must be able to:

  • Complete all pre-flight inspection/checks on your sRPAS;
  • Note take-off time;
  • Use an organized and efficient procedure to take off;
  • Comply with all departure clearances and instructions if the flight review is conducted in controlled airspace; and
  • Complete appropriate checklists.

Manual flight procedure

Knowledge requirements for Visual line of sight operations
Small basic operation Small advanced operation Topics
n/a applies Show the ability to manually control the sRPAS through various stages of flight.

The small RPAS pilot operating within visual line of sight must be able to:

  • Maintain a stable airspeed, cruising altitude, and heading;
  • Navigate by applying systematic navigation techniques;
  • Orient the sRPAS to the direction of flight;
  • Navigate around an obstacle or fixed point;
  • Determine the position of the aircraft with respect to distance and altitude from the candidate;
  • Apply an organized method that would:
    • verify the position of the aircraft
    • revise headings to correct any existing track error to maintain the aircraft’s position due to wind
    • confirm or revise the battery power available at the destination landing point with a degree of accuracy that would make arrival assured
    • confirm current fuel/power levels vs requirements for the flight

Lost link procedures

Knowledge requirements for Visual line of sight operations
Small basic operation Small advanced operation Topics
n/a applies Demonstrate verbally the procedures to be used when a lost link occurs.

The small RPAS pilot operating within visual line of sight must be able to:

  • Correctly program the sRPAS for a “return to home” if it is equipped with that function;
  • Select a power setting and altitude appropriate for the lost link situation;
  • Promptly recognize when a lost link has occurred;
  • Show an ability to regain control of the sRPAS if it reconnects the lost link;
  • Take an appropriate course of action, once link has been re-established and confirmed; and
  • Contact the appropriate facility to provide information on the lost link if needed.

“Fly away” procedures

Knowledge requirements for Visual line of sight operations
Small basic operation Small advanced operation Topics
n/a applies Verbally demonstrate the ability to perform all the needed actions relating to a “fly away” situation.

The small RPAS pilot operating within visual line of sight must be able to:

  • Perform the following tasks without undue delay:
    • Identify and record their present position
    • Identify and record the direction and altitude the sRPAS was last seen travelling
    • Estimate the approximate available flight time that will remain with the fuel/power on board upon arrival at the destination (Example: 15 minutes)
  • Without delay contact the appropriate facility to provide information on the “fly away” if needed.

Perform a landing

Knowledge requirements for Visual line of sight operations
Small basic operation Small advanced operation Topics
n/a applies Perform an organized and efficient safe arrival.

The small RPAS pilot operating within visual line of sight must be able to:

  • Use an organized and efficient procedure to land;
  • Comply with all arrival clearances and instructions if the flight review is conducted in controlled airspace;
  • Complete appropriate checklists;
  • Note landing time;
  • Secure the sRPAS.