Where can I fly my drone??

With tight restrictions on where recreational drones/models can now be used in Canada many owners are wondering where they can legally fly.

The main issue involved:

  • 9 km of any airport/aerodrome/helipad.
  • 250 feet (75m) from buildings, vehicles, people.

Even in more rural/suburban areas, getting 250′ feet from neighbors and roads can be a challenge.  The local soccer/ball field that many may have used before is many times bordering residential areas or next to a school or community center.

That being said, there are still areas available for recreational model use within most cities.  As part of the regulations was an exclusion for MAAC (Model Aeronautics Association of Canada) fields.  If you are interested more in the RC hobby definitely check for a local club as it can be a great place to learn.

For many however the aircraft & flight aspects of drone use are not the focus, and it is more about getting unique aerial photos and video, so flying at the same field all the time may not meet their needs.

To help determine where the new zones apply the NRC website is a good resource.  While not perfect it is currently one of the few accessible locations to find information on where controlled airspace and airports are located – NRC UAV Site Selection Tool
(One item to note on the NRC site is that many aerodromes are shown with only a 3NM circle, not the 5NM/9KM zone of the recent regulations.)

Another tool for mobile users is UAV Forecast.  The app provides mapping capabilities and you can set the distance around each type of airspace and airport.  Available for both iOS and Android.

AirMarket is another new online resource for UAV operators that provides online flight planning and maps as a paid service.  A free trial is available.

In addition this article outlines other related tools to assist with determining airspace and related information: Canadian Aviation Chart Resources

NOTE:  There are many other areas that may also be off limits.  Parks Canada and many cities and other areas have bylaws that restrict drone use as well.  The links above mainly focus on the airspace and aviation areas outlined by the new Transport Canada regulations.




CreativeLive – New Skills for Aerial Imaging

Learning is an ongoing life long process.  No matter how deep we are into our specific field there is always the opportunity to learn new skills and pickup new tips.  When your running a business full time however it can be hard to find time to dedicate to education.  This is especially true in the field of aerial imaging, where technology changes so fast and many of us come from non related fields, there can be a lot of new skills to learn from flying the drone, through to editing the imagery, and marketing our services.

We recently wrote about CreativeLive as a learning resource on our sister website blog over at schooner labs as a great online source for education for those with limited time.

CreativeLive uses a freemium pricing model, the classes are free to live stream or can be purchased to watch at a later date if they don’t match your immediate schedule.

Photographer Chase Jarvis and entrepreneur Craig Swanson in Seattle in 2010, they leverage their background to bring a wide range of industry experts as instructors for their courses, giving the viewer some of the best in breed real world experience across the topic areas.

In terms of aerial imaging, CreativeLive offers a number of courses that directly apply to day to day needs around photo editing & video production. There are also a number of aerial & drone specific courses in the available library. In addition they also carry courses on managing your business and getting the most out of social media promotion and branding and related topics.

So when you have some free time between UAV operations, have a look at CreativeLive to see if there may be a chance to learn some new skills you can apply to your aerial imaging business to help move things to the next level.

Note – We are a CreativeLive affiliate and the links provided do provide us a small amount of funding if you purchase any of their offerings.  As with everything we share we only recommend items we truly believe in and have used.  Like you we are just a small business and making every penny count is key in the quickly changing aerial industry.

Cold Weather Drone Flying Tips

With winter now here in the northern hemisphere and many new drone owners taking to the skies with their holiday gifts, we thought it might be helpful to provide some tips and advice on using drones in cold weather. Cold has a major impact on how these aircraft fly so there are a few key items that should be kept in mind for winter use.

The number one issue with cold weather and drones is the impact it has on the batteries.  As we have written before, the LIPO batteries used in most UAVs have a chemical makeup that slows in lower temperatures, which in turn reduces the power delivered from them and overall capacity and flight time.

Make sure batteries are fully charged before flight, you don’t want to use a partially charged battery in cold weather, where flight time is already reduced.

handwarmersKeep the batteries in a warm location before use, DJI recommends having them at 25C before flight.  Warm them in the car or store them in a small container such as a cooler with hand warmers, hot water bottles, heating bags, or similar to help maintain the temperature.  Be sure to monitor them to ensure they do not get too hot or become wet in the process.

Sticking a spare battery in the inside pocket of your jacket can also help keeping them warm from body heat.  dji-heaterDJI also makes battery heaters for some of their systems which can also be a convenient solution, although they do use a small amount of the batteries charge to run the warmer.

Many consumer drones have the battery mounted inside the main body of the drone itself, which helps protect it from the elements.  However on larger systems and others with exposed batteries, wrapping them in a layer of foam or thermal insulation can help to maintain the temperature of the battery in flight. (more…)

Tips for using your new Christmas Drone in Canada

xmas droneThis year the big item of many wish lists is a UAV or drone.  We will no doubt see a lot of these under the trees come Christmas morning.

Drones offer are a fabulous means to have a new outdoor recreational experience that can bring any number of educational opportunities such as understanding how a drone works, from aerodynamics, control systems, & communications through to a new ways to shoot photos & video, and even drone racing… The sky is the limit.

But while these are very cool pieces of technology there are a few things owners should know to operate them safely and legally within Canada.

For starters be sure to fully read all the documentation that comes with your drone.  Don’t rush out first thing to get it in the air. You could easily lose your shiny new toy if not properly configured or worse yet cause an accident. Be sure to note the battery safety instructions as well, most of these aircraft use Lithium Polymer batteries, which can be very dangerous if damaged or charged incorrectly.

Next be sure to read over the Transport Canada website on drone use.  It provides an overview of the rules, regulations, and guidelines for safe use – Flying an unmanned aircraft recreationally

The primary law that exists in regards to recreational drones, or model aircraft, is covered by CAR 602.45:

No person shall fly a model aircraft or a kite or launch a model rocket or a rocket of a type used in a fireworks display into cloud or in a manner that is or is likely to be hazardous to aviation safety.

This is rather vague in terms of what that means in real world terms, however Transport Canada has put together the following guidelines and tips to help people operate safely within the law:


  • Fly your aircraft during daylight and in good weather (not in clouds or fog).
  • Keep your aircraft in sight, where you can see it with your own eyes – not only through an on-board camera, monitor or smartphone.
  • Make sure your aircraft is safe for flight before take-off. Ask yourself, for example, are the batteries fully charged? Is it too cold to fly?
  • Know if you need permission to fly and when to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate
  • Respect the privacy of others – avoid flying over private property or taking photos or videos without permission.


  • Closer than 9 km from any airport, heliport, or aerodrome.
  • Higher than 90 metres from above the ground.
  • Closer than 150 metres from people, animals, buildings, structures, or vehicles.
  • In populated areas or near large groups of people, including sporting events, concerts, festivals, and firework shows.
  • Near moving vehicles, avoid highways, bridges, busy streets or anywhere you could endanger or distract drivers.
  • Within restricted airspace, including near or over military bases, prisons, and forest fires.
  • Anywhere you may interfere with first responders



Drone Code of Conduct

conduct-iconDrones are an amazing tool for both commercial and recreational users to get unique bird’s eye views of the world around us. Unfortunately when it comes to some users common sense in their usage does not always seem to apply.  There needs to be a level of respect and safety shown, over and above the legal aspects of drone use. Just because you can fly doesn’t mean you should.

To that end here are some general guidelines & basic codes of conduct that should be considered.

  • Firstly all operators, be they commercial or recreational, must follow the rules and regulations set out by the authority in your country (Transport Canada regulations & guidelines), which lay out when, where, and how a drone can be used. These typically includes things like not flying over people, keeping the aircraft within line of sight, and making sure you are properly trained on the UAV.
  • Know the airspace you are planning to fly in and make sure you know where all the airports and helipads are, and give way to manned aircraft. This is the law and you don’t want to be the person that causes the first major accident between a drone and an aircraft. If you are unsure then don’t fly. Be respectful of the airspace you are in and share the sky.
  • Be respectful of other’s privacy and don’t become a spy. Don’t follow people or fly over houses/private property without permission. Make sure you are visible when flying so if someone has a concern they know who is in control.
    While existing privacy laws lay out what you can and can’t record already, respect should be given even when people are in a public setting. Privacy laws for a drone are no different than for traditional photography.
  • Get permission before you fly.  Many parks and public areas may have restrictions and bylaws controlling when and where you can fly.
  • Don’t become a nuisance or distraction. People aren’t usually at an event/location to see drones fly, so keep your distance and don’t become a distraction.
  • Keep your distance from wildlife.  These systems can stress and even injure animals if flown too close. Birds and other animals may see the drone as a threat and try to attack it which can lead to injury.
  • Stay clear of emergency situations.  First responders need to react quickly, getting in the way to get a photo of an accident could lead to delays that impact life and property.
  • If weather conditions are poor the drone should not be flown regardless of how important the potential footage may be. The operator should be well aware of a craft’s operational limitations.
  • Make sure the drone is well maintained and in proper working order.  Don’t fly a system with known issues.
  • Don’t fly if you are tired, under the influence, or not well prepared.  You are the key link in the chain of command and have ultimate control over safety, only fly when you are 100% up to the task.
  • Always have a spotter, don’t drone alone.  There is a lot to manage to fly safely and an extra set of eye’s are critical to make sure no surprises happen.
  • Don’t fly over active highways and roads, it is a distraction to drivers and could lead to an accident.
  • If you see another drone operator flying in an unsafe manner try to educate them in a polite and friendly manner.  Many new people are unaware of the rules and general safety and a bit of help can go a long way to building a better community of users. If they are unwilling to listen and feel outside the law then reporting them to local law enforcement or Transport Canada may be the only option if you feel they are putting others at risk, but always try to educate as a first step.
  • Always remember that you are an ambassador and the face of all drone pilots when in public. If approached by someone who has issues or concerns be prepared to listen and to show that their concerns will be taken seriously. Offer to explain the benefits and enjoyment of these systems.
  • Use common sense. At the end of the day it comes down to applying basic common sense and respect.  Don’t do something unsafe or that could harm or upset others.

If you have other suggestions let us know, the more we can share & educate other operators the better the public perception of drones will become.

Air Temperature & Multicopter Performance

One factor that may get forgotten in the rush to do an aerial job is the effect of the weather on your drone, more specifically the air temperature on a multicopter’s performance.  Most know of the impact temperature has on LIPO batteries, but the impact extends beyond just this.

Most pilots are aware of the effect altitude has on the performance of the power system and props, the higher you are the less thrust gets produced due to the thinner air density.  The same effect also happens with increased ambient temperature. As the air temp increases the air density drops and in turn so does thrust.  Humidity also impacts this effect as well.  Generally, thrust decreases with an increase in ambient temperature.

This is commonly referred to as Density altitude. As defined in Wikipedia:

Density altitude is the altitude relative to the standard atmosphere conditions (ISA) at which the air density would be equal to the indicated air density at the place of observation. In other words, density altitude is air density given as a height above mean sea level. “Density altitude” can also be considered to be the pressure altitude adjusted for non-standard temperature.

Both an increase in temperature, decrease in atmospheric pressure, and, to a much lesser degree, increase in humidity will cause an increase in density altitude. In hot and humid conditions, the density altitude at a particular location may be significantly higher than the true altitude.

When operating in hotter conditions be aware of the effect and make sure your system has adequate thrust and performance to overcome the conditions.