SFOC Application Consulting Services

sfocUnder current Canadian regulations, any non-recreational use of a drone/UAV requires either an Exemption to be in place or the operator to hold a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC).

New regulations are in the works that will replace most SFOCs, but not expected to to be released until late 2018, with a 6 month roll-out period going into mid 2019.  If you need to be flying before then an SFOC will still be needed.

Developing an SFOC application and all the associated technical documents and standard operating procedures
can be a daunting task for those new to Transport Canada and the aviation industry. There are specific details the regulator requires and a lot of jargon to understand to complete the application properly.  As well SFOCs are handled regionally across Canada, and each region has it’s own specific requirements and procedures around how and what to submit.

For those wanting to do it themselves we provide a number of helpful resources throughout our blog, the key articles can be found in this index .

For those looking for more direct assistance and to help expedite the process, we offer full SFOC application development services. Through these services we provide a full set of documents that Transport Canada typically require the operator to have for a submission:

Operations Manual. This document includes all the standard operating procedures (SOPs), safety & emergencies plans, checklists, log templates, and related. Basically your core processes and procedures for operating a UAV within the requirements Transport Canada put in place. We base this off our own existing proven documents and are always tweaking it based on new information and feedback from various regions.

UAV Manual. This document is specific to the UAV(s) you use and outlines the technical specifications, flight parameters, repair and maintenance procedures/schedules as per the needs of Transport Canada.

SFOC Application. Main application document which outlines the specifics of the purpose, location, dates, airspace, maps, etc for the operation. This makes reference to the other documents above.

National SFOC Form. Transport Canada now has a National SFOC form that is used across all regions.  This form makes reference to the other documents, which contain the mandatory information now required for applications.


A UAV by any other name is still a drone…

google_image_search_droneThe ongoing debate over what to call these technological wonders we fly in this industry has gone on for sometime and no doubt will not end soon.

Many refuse the moniker of “drone”, fearing it has a negative military connotation, however the media use it as their name of choice.  While those in the industry my prefer to use terms like UAV, UAS, multicopters, etc the reality is that society drives the accepted name and that name is “drone”.

The folks over Skymount Unmanned Systems have an excellent article on this topic: It’s Okay to Call Them Drones.  This is an excellent read and backed with some actual real world data.

Even if we all agreed it was a good idea to change from drone to another name and went to great expense launching a worldwide marketing blitz to advertise it, at best we could succeed only in changing the terminology within our industry while the rest of the world continues calling them drones. It is a futile exercise…

The fact that we can’t change it is fine though, because the name we have is a gift to us as a nascent, highly technical industry. A short, simple unique word that is widely recognized is a marketing department’s dream…

Let’s stop wasting energy on this debate so we can all get on with the real business of how best to take advantage of this amazing new technology and the benefits it can bring.

They’re called drones.
Move on!

We recently had an experience that drove this point home even more than we expected.  We were doing a video shoot at a local shopping mall, indoor using a Movi M5 handheld gimbal setup as a two many operation, with the camera man using an RC transmitter with remote video feed.  No UAVs on location, no other gear that would have implied any flying or drone related activities.

Throughout the day we had multiple people come up to us as ask if we were doing something with “drones”.  This ranged from young people to those well into their 60-70s.  It seems even the RC gear alone implies “drone” now to the general public.  One comment we overheard as a couple walked by made us laugh and rethink this even more:

they are doing something “drone-ish”

So at this stage the battle is really over.  Society has chosen the name and that name is “drone”.  Now the best we can do is embrace it and show the positive aspects of the technology and further distance it’s military history into the generic term for all things “drone-ish”

New SFOC Application Process – Part 6 Compliant UAV

sfocIn order to use the Compliant Operator Application Process under the new SFOC procedures, one the of requirements is that the UAV is compliant.

The criteria for a compliant UAV is outlined in Appendix C of the SI 623-001 document. To be compliant the aircraft needs to meet specific requirements across the following area:

  • Flight Performance
  • UAV Structure
  • Design and Construction
  • Propulsion System
  • Systems and Equipment
  • Manuals and Documentation – Flight and Maintenance

UAV System Airworthiness
(i) To be considered “Compliant”, a UAV will be required to meet the Small UAV Design Standard found in Appendix C.
(ii) Achieving Compliance – To achieve compliance the manufacturer must analyze the technical specifications, drawings, calculations, assembly instructions and other documented materials that fully describes the model of aircraft and its associated systems (i.e. type definition) against the requirements of the design standard, and conduct any necessary ground and flight tests to determine that it is compliant.

The issue with many of the smaller UAVs is that there is no specific documentation, manuals, or maintenance schedules that a full-size aircraft may have. This is further complicated when custom built UAVs are involved and the operator is the manufacturer in essence.

As part of the compliance, the aircraft needs to have both a Declaration of Compliance and Statement of Conformity.

Documenting Compliance – The manufacturer must preserve sufficient documentation to substantiate how each requirement of the Design Standard has been met to include any ground and flight testing.

A Declaration of Compliance is a written submission to TC by the manufacturer of a small UAV system attesting that the Type Definition for a particular make and model of a small UAV system complies with the Design Standards published in Appendix C and has found the UAV performance to be acceptable.

A Statement of Conformity is a document upon which a manufacturer attests that a specific small UAV system conforms to the Type Definition as stated in the Declaration of Compliance for that make and model of small UAV system and the owner attests that it has not been altered or modified so as to invalidate the manufacturer’s attestation.

Type Definition means the Manufacturer’s technical specifications, drawings, calculations, assembly instructions and other documented material for a particular model of UAV. This information must be kept by the manufacturer and be made available to Transport Canada upon request.

UAV Compliance is the biggest hurdle we seen for most operators and to operate effectively an operator really needs to be Compliant, the restrictions imposed by the other application types will limit what the business can do, eliminating them from a large portion of potential work. It is unknown at this time how operators will be able to get a Declaration of Compliance and Statement of Conformity from manufacturers for the requirements of TC when main of these are custom systems built if far reaches of the world.  Also many are custom built by the operator or modified from the baseline, again it is unclear if and how these aircraft can meet the requirements as a result.

Terminology: UAV

UAV F550UAV – Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.  Commonly referred to as “drone”, particularly by the media. May also be referred to as UAS (Unamanned Aerial System) and RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems).

As defined by Transport Canada:

means a power-driven aircraft, other than a model aircraft *, that is designed to fly without a human operator onboard.

(* Model Aircraft – means an aircraft, the total weight of which does not exceed 35 kg (77.2 pounds), that is mechanically driven or launched into flight for recreational purposes and that is not designed to carry persons or other living creatures.)

Unmanned air vehicles exclude fireworks, kites, rockets and large unmanned free balloons.

Unmanned air vehicles are considered to be an “aircraft” under the Aeronautics Act. A UAV system is a set of configurable elements consisting of an unmanned aircraft, its associated control station(s), the required command and control (C2) links and any other elements as may be required, at any point during flight operation. UAVs are aircraft of any size that may be remotely controlled or may have an automated flight capability. UAVs are operated by a pilot controlling the UAV remotely, while the aircraft may be unmanned, the system is not.

Wikipedia – Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Transport Canada UAV Full Exemption Details

The full details on the recently released exemptions for UAV use by Transport Canada have now been pushed on their website and can be found here Advisory Circular (AC) No. 600-004

An Advisory Circular (AC) provides information and guidance with regards to a specific issue or law. In this case, it provides general guidance, safety practices and explanatory information for operators of unmanned air vehicle (UAV) systems operating under an exemption to Sections 602.41 and 603.66 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs).

This new document further defines the previous press releases and info-graphic on thew new under 2kg and 2-25kg exemptions.

The main restrictions that may limit their use for many operators are the distance requirements from airports and built up areas:

The pilot operating under this exemption shall only operate a UAV at least five (5) nautical miles away from the centre of any aerodrome.

The pilot operating under this exemption shall only operate a UAV at least five (5) nautical miles away from a built-up area.

CAA UK – You Have Control

The UK Civil Aviation Authority have released some simple but to the point general safety rules and guidance for UAV operations.  While not specific to all countries they are good clear suggestions for safe use for anywhere. Would be nice to see similar guidelines become used worldwide and be included with all UAVs sold.

CAA UK – You have control (PDF download)

CAA You have control 1

CAA You have control 2