Choosing a Drone Aerial Service Provider

ChecklistWhen it comes to selecting a drone service provider for your aerial media needs it can be a daunting task.  The industry is in the very early stages of growth so reliable recommendations and reviews can be hard to come by.

With drones becoming cheaper the barriers of entry are low and many are jumping in to the game putting out their Drone Aerials shingle with little to no previous experience. As a result, pricing alone is not always the key determining factor for selecting the best provider for your needs.

The true measure is in value provided and getting an end product that meets or exceeds your expectations and is done safely.  Not all aerial media is made the same, low quality visuals can directly impact your brand and image.

As with any outsourcing you need to choose wisely who to work with and who you want to develop an ongoing relationship with.  The following are some key factors to take into account before hiring an aerial provider.

Within Canada all commercial drone use is regulated by Transport Canada (most other countries have similar regulatory bodies, such as the FAA, CAA).  Operators must follow these regulations to operate legally.  In most cases in Canada this requires the operator to have what is knows as a  Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC).  If the provider does not have one (or doesn’t know what it even is) then you should avoid using them as you could potentially be liable in the event of an accident while on your property.  It also indicates their general lack of knowledge on the regulations or a decision to ignore them completely. (In some instances an Exemption can be used, however these apply mainly in very rural locations so most often cannot be used.)

If the provider does not have what is called a Standing or Blanket SFOC (these are open long term certificates) already in place and relies on operation specific certificates then you could have to wait for 20 days up to 3 months+ for approval for your specific work.  Those holding Standing SFOCs are generally able to work with very short notice as no further processing by Transport Canada is required. Be sure to ask what sort of SFOC the provider holds and what if any lead time may be required before the actual aerial work can be done.

Also SFOCs are regionally granted, so ensure the operator you are looking to hire has one for your specific location as there are multiple regions across Canada. (more…)

Canadian Airspace Viewer

We came across this handy graphic tool for viewing Canadian Airspace via Carney on Twitter.  We cannot speak to how accurate it may be for all areas but it looks correct for our local area here in Halifax NS.

As per his tweet:

for Canadian drone pilots, set the limit to below 700′ to see where you can’t fly without an SFOC.

Link: Canadian Airspace Viewer


UAV SFOC Application Checklist – Restricted Operator

We recently posted a checklist that had been created by the Transport Canada Pacific Region to assist SFOC applicants.  This checklist has since been revised and an updated copy was sent to us by one of the inspectors to share with our readers.

I wanted to provide you with a checklist that was developed for applicants in the Pacific Region that is to be used in accordance with SI-623-001, Issue 2.  If applicants submit this checklist with their SFOC application, our hope is that it will minimize the back and forth with a client and reduce the overall SFOC processing time.  Feel free to make this checklist available to your readers.


PDF: rdims-10641581-v2-document_-_uav_sfoc_check_list_guidelines_-_2015_05_05

Special thank you to the Pacific Region for making this available for us to share out to the Canadian commercial UAV operator community.

Know Your Airspace

One of the key elements for UAV operators is knowing the airspace they are operating within.  While things within uncontrolled Class G airspace are relatively straight forward, once you start operating within Controlled Airspace there are additional requirements and precautions that must be taken to ensure safe operations near other full sized aircraft.

To fly within Canadian Controlled Airspace you will need an SFOC that permits operations in those zones.  Often times these may have tighter restrictions than in uncontrolled zones.  It is the responsibility of the operator to check and know what type of airspace they are planning to work in and take the appropriate actions.  Generally operating within controlled airspace involves contacting the local ATC and having a NOTAM issued for your operations.

shearwaterIn Halifax NS for example, one of the main areas we operate in, almost all of the downtown area of the waterfront on both the Dartmouth and Halifax sides falls within the airspace controlled by CFB Shearwater. The Shearwater Control Zone is class D, 5 NM in radius, and is capped at 3,500 feet ASL. As such they must be informed of all UAV operations typically 24 hours in advance and issue NOTAMs for these activities.

The previous article we posted UAV Flight Planning & NOTAM Resources is a great place to start for tools and resources for flight planning.

As with all elements of UAV operations there are many things to learn and understand, workings within different airspace and knowing the proper procedures for each type is a critical piece of the puzzle.