The single best recommendation we can make when starting into the SFOC process for the first time is to READ all the documentation and related material fully and then READ IT AGAIN.
Like most government documents it will be full of a lot of new terminology and legalese that you may not be use to. Take your time, read it all, and don’t get frustrated.
We have posted a number of definitions to common terminology on the blog that can help shed some light on some of the more common and important items.
The main document you will be working with is the Staff Instruction (SI) No. 623-001 – Review and Processing of an Application for a Special Flight Operations Certificate for the Operation of an Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) System This document outlines the full requirements and procedure for making an SFOC application.
The purpose of this Staff Instruction (SI) is to provide Inspectors with the information, procedures and guidelines necessary to process a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) application and prepare an SFOC as required by section 602.41 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) for the safe conduct of unmanned air vehicle (UAV) system operations.
This SI has been prepared in line with the functional authority and direction given by the Headquarters (HQ), Flight Standards division that is the delegated functional specialist for flight operations involving UAV systems. This SI will aid HQ and Regional staff by providing guidelines with regard to national policies, directives and standards with the aim of standardizing UAV system SFOC processes. All personnel, directly or indirectly concerned with UAV system operations must be informed of, and apply the procedures contained in this SI.
This document is intended to be an accepted, consistent means to evaluate SFOC applications for UAV system flight operations. However, due to the rapid pace of technological developments in this field, this SI may not address all applicable safety concerns. As such, this will continue to be a living document and will be revised and/or supplemented at intervals to take account of lessons learned, changes in technology, harmonization with international regulations and feedback from the UAV industry.
While it may seem the document is for TC staff, it is meant for applicants as well:
Prior to submitting an SFOC application, Certificate applicants should read this SI (sections 1.0 through 8.0) and applicable Advisory Circulars for guidance on terms and definitions, general operating rules, risk management, liability insurance requirements, radiotelephone operator certificate requirements and general information.
It should be noted that all new applications must follow the process outlined in Staff Instruction (SI) No. 623-001. If you are an existing SFOC holder you will need to file under the new process when you reapply, so make sure to read all the new specifics or your application will most likely be rejected if it is based on the older instructions from prior to Nov 19.
Certificate applicants who hold a valid SFOC, as of the date this SI is published, may continue operations under that SFOC until that SFOC expires. When renewing said SFOC additional information may be required to ensure applicants meet the new requirements.
Also be sure to review the Transport Canada UAV section of their website. This has additional information and documents that are related to commercial use of UAVs in Canada.
In addition to the SI document, we have also written a number of articles on the SFOC and SI document elements that are of good reference to help provide further clarity: