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What are the regulations for drones in Canada? Discover our guide.

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Which ministry is responsible for drone flight regulations?

In recent years, with the evolution of technology, the drone has become an indispensable tool for certain professionals and companies. It is also becoming increasingly popular with consumers, who use it for leisure, photography and video production.

Today, drones are considered to be aircraft. When you use your drone, you’ll be sharing the airspace with other aircraft. That’s why, before using your quadricopter, you need to know the rules to follow and where to find the information. These regulations are put in place by Transport Canada, the Canadian federal government’s department of transportation.

This guide is designed to help you understand the basics and the essential regulations to be complied with. However, if you’d like to be kept up to date on the latest drone regulations, please feel free to visit Transport Canada’s official website.

How to fly a drone safely in Quebec and Canada?

Before going into more detail on the subject, please note that you must never use your drone in a way that could endanger the airspace or a person. A drone pilot needs to be discerning, to identify potential risks accurately and to be able to avoid them.

Can anyone fly a drone?

The answer is no, and here’s what Transport Canada’s website says:

You must be 14 to obtain a basic operations license and 16 to obtain an advanced operations license. Children under 14 must be supervised by a licensed person. This includes clubs, camps and other youth groups.

What do the regulations say about UAVs weighing less than 250 grams?

UAVs weighing less than 250g are considered micro-UAVs, which means that pilots are not subject to the same conditions as other UAVs (over 250g).

In fact, you don’t have to register your drone or obtain certification.

Transport Canada recommends the following best practices:

Maintenir le drone en visibilité directe ;
Ne pas faire voler votre drone à une altitude de plus de 400 pi ;
Garder une distance latérale sécuritaire entre votre drone et les passants ;
Rester loin des aérodromes, aéroports, héliports et hydroaéroports ;
Éviter de voler près des infrastructures essentielles (services publics, tours de communication, ponts, etc.) ;
Rester toujours à l’écart des aéronefs ;
Effectuer une inspection de votre drone avant le vol ;
Garder le drone suffisamment près pour maintenir la connexion avec la télécommande;
Éviter les manifestations aéronautiques spéciales ou les événements annoncés.

As drones are considered to be aircraft, they are subject to the Aeronautics Act and the Canadian Aviation Regulations. It is therefore forbidden to enter the following areas without the appropriate authorizations:

  • Class F airspace with special restricted status ;
  • Over a disaster area or within 5 NM of a disaster area, or in any airspace for which a NOTAM has been issued concerning restrictions on the use of aircraft during forest fires;
  • Areas for which a notice has been issued under section 5.1 of the Aeronautics Act restricting the use of airspace for all aircraft.

What category of operation is required for a drone weighing over 250 grams?

In Canada, there are 2 main categories of drone operations: basic and advanced. The weight of your drone, distance from passers-by and airspace rules define your category. The rules do not distinguish between drone pilots for recreational purposes and drone pilots for commercial purposes.

Find out which certificate you need according to your needs:

How do I register my drone?

As mentioned above, drones weighing less than 250 grams are not subject to registration. However, all other drones weighing between 250 g and 25 kg must be registered. This includes custom-built drones, ready-to-assemble drones or over-the-counter drones.

To register your drone, visit Transport Canada’s drone management portal.

Where can I fly my hobby or professional drone?

Drone pilots – Basic operations certificate

As you will have understood, if you hold a basic operations certificate, you are only authorized to fly your drone in uncontrolled airspace, in addition to other regulations.

The National Research Council has created a interactive map which allows drone users to find sites far from controlled airspace. These data are provided for information purposes only.

Drone pilots – Advanced operations certificate

Flying in controlled airspace

To operate in controlled airspace, the pilot must have an advanced operations certificate, a drone with the appropriate manufacturer’s safety assurance statement, and authorization from the air navigation service provider.

Drone pilots must maintain communication with the air traffic control authority during flight. For further information on operations in controlled airspace, please refer to section 3.4.4 of the ATP chapter of Transport Canada’s Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM).

Airspace controlled by NAV CANADA

Drone pilots holding Advanced Operations Pilot Certificates can request permission to fly their drone in NAV CANADA-controlled airspace, using the NAV Drone application by going to the Drone Flight Planning page.

Users can also access interactive maps for airspace information and to see where they can and cannot fly their drone.

Airspace controlled under the authority of the Minister of National Defense (MDN)

You must request a flight permit from the appropriate aerodrome authorities.

Where in Canada is drone use restricted?

Airports, heliports and aerodromes

An aerodrome is a place where an aircraft can take off and land, including airports, heliports and seaplane bases.

Unless you follow an established Transport Canada procedure, you may not operate a drone under the following conditions:

  • less than 5.6 kilometers (3 nautical miles) from an airport listed in the Canada Flight Supplement as certified (“Cert”);
  • within 1.9 kilometers (1 nautical mile) of heliports listed in the Canada Flight Supplement as certified (“Cert”).

Airport, water airport, heliport outside controlled airspace ;

Drone pilots planning to fly in uncontrolled airspace, and within 3 nautical miles of a certified airport, or within 1 nautical mile of a certified heliport.

To do this, you must :

  • always have a valid drone pilot certificate – advanced operations ;
  • comply with the procedure established by Transport Canada.

The procedure established by Transport Canada can be found in section 3.4.5 of the ATP chapter of the Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), and on the NRC drone site selection tool.

Operations within 3 nautical miles of a Department of National Defense (DND) aerodrome ;

UAV operations within 3 nautical miles (5.6 kilometers) of an aerodrome under DND authority require a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) – SATP. To obtain a COAS – SATP, the drone pilot must receive authorization from DND aerodrome authorities.

For more information on these areas and how to access them properly, please consult the NRC drone site selection tool and section 3.2.35 of the ATP chapter of Transport Canada’s Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM).

National parks

Drone pilots are not allowed to take off or land their drone in a national park. In some cases, the park superintendent may authorize their use. If you wish to use a drone in a national park, please read the documents on theuse of drones in Parks Canada sites and contact Parks Canada.

Emergency sites ;

Drone pilots are not allowed to fly a drone within the safety perimeter of a police operation or emergency response, such as a traffic accident. They should also avoid sites close to disasters (forest fires, floods and earthquakes). Flying near these sites can interfere with emergency response aircraft or the work of emergency personnel.

Announced events ;

Unless they hold a Specialized Flight Operations Certificate that allows them to do so, drone pilots are not allowed to fly a drone near or over advertised events, such as outdoor concerts and sporting events.

What penalties do I risk if I break the rules?

You could be subject to severe penalties, including fines or imprisonment, if you break the rules.

Fines for individuals

  • Up to $1,000 for flights without a drone pilot certificate;
  • Up to $1,000 for unregistered or marked drones;
  • Up to $1,000 for theft from unauthorized premises ;
  • Up to $3,000 if the safety of aircraft or persons is compromised.

Fines for legal entities

  • Up to $5,000 for flights without a drone pilot certificate;
  • Up to $5,000 for unregistered or marked drones;
  • Up to $5,000 for theft from unauthorized premises ;
  • Up to $15,000 if the safety of aircraft or persons is compromised.

If you break more than one rule, you may be subject to more than one penalty.

Source: Transport Canada



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