As the UAV industry grows in Canada there are many new companies getting involved in various aspects from manufacturing, training, consulting, and providing aerial services. As part of this growth is the marketing aspect as new companies push to find clients and expand their exposure in the industry. It is the wild west and everyone is putting out a shingle in hopes of getting noticed.
With most marketing campaigns companies are looking to set themselves apart from the competition and show their unique offerings. With that can come “marketing spin” when things are pushed to their limits in terms of meaning. Often there is a fine line in the use of certain terminology which can imply something that may not always be the case, especially in the context of how the terms are defined and used by Transport Canada, with companies trying to highlight their services or make their offering stand out from the competition. Care must be taken in how these terms are used and interpreted when trying to decide between companies offering similar drone services.
The way that UAV service providers operate legally in Canada is via what is called an “SFOC” or “Special Flight Operations Certificate”. Operators apply to Transport Canada for an SFOC that allows them to conduct commercial UAV flights, typically for a defined geographic region and within a certain set of flight parameters. As part of the application process the operator defines their operating and safety procedures as well as processes for managing their crews, aircraft, etc. Transport Cnaada reviews the request and procedures and if they feel it will provide for safe flight operations then a SFOC is granted. Each SFOC is unique so the specific details can vary from operator to operator in regards to when and where they can fly, such as in controlled airspace, at night, maximum altitudes, etc; not all SFOCs are equal so having one in and of itself does not grant the holder to a free for all of drone use, limitations and restriction exist even with an SFOC.
For training there are no current Transport Canada approved/licensed/certified UAV providers. Transport Canada has defined a set of “knowledge requirements” on which most providers base their curriculum, but they do not certify the courses or trainers. However, organizations offering training that meets the knowledge requirements will be expected to provide Transport Canada with a written self declaration attesting to the compliance of their courseware and testing. Thereafter, SFOC applicants with pilots who have successfully completed such a compliant course will be able to reference that course and ground school provider in their SFOC application as proof of pilot knowledge.
There are also no official exams at this stage (this may be part of the new regulations coming in late 2016/early 2017). Training currently can be provided by any company looking to do so, from established manned aviation training centers, to new UAV specific startups, as well as online self study, and in house training.