On March 17, 2017, Transport Canada enacted an Interim Order respecting the use of model aircraft in Canadian Domestic Airspace. The order is intended as a temporary measure to protect airspace users, and the general public, until new regulations regarding the use of UAVs can be published. This interim order will affect anyone using a UAV between 250 g and 35 kg for recreational purposes. That is nearly all of the consumer grade UAVs available for mass purchase, such as those built by DJI. For those that operate UAVs for commercial purposes, Transport Canada still has processes in place to govern their use. Those operators that currently hold an SFOC, or operate successfully under the exemptions to the SFOC, can continue to exercise those privileges. For a UAV hobbyist in Edmonton, options now are very limited. The easiest option is currently to seek enrolment with the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC), as nearly all properties in Edmonton are within a 9 km radius of an aerodrome. One of the restrictions of the Interim Order is that a UAV cannot be operated with 9 km of an aerodrome, and Edmonton (and for that matter, nearly any town large enough for a hospital) has heliports co-located at most hospitals. A hobbyist now has to travel out Edmonton some ways, in order to find an area outside of controlled airspace (another requirement of the Interim Order), and outside of a 9 km radius of any aerodrome. When the most recent exemption to the SFOC process was published, Canfly Drones mapped out all know aerodromes in the Edmonton area. What is not mapped are the aerodromes unregistered in the Canada Flight Supplement, of which it is our responsibility as UAV pilots (both recreationally and commercially) to be aware of. Further, the radius circles around the heliports, in the exemption map, is less than 9 km. Other restrictions of the Interim Order include; Do not fly higher than 90 m above ground. Do not fly closer than 75 m from buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals, people/crowds, etc. Do not fly with controlled or restricted aerospace. Do no fly within 9 km or a forest fire. Do not fly where you could interfere with police or first responders. Do not fly at night or in clouds. Keep your UAV within sight at all times. Keep your UAV within 500 m of you at all times. Keep your name, address, and telephone number clearly marked on your UAV. Recreational UAV pilots are now liable for fines up to 3000$ for not following the Interim Orders. While the Interim Orders have essentially cleared recreational UAVs from our city skies, we can hope the controls will relax once Transport Canada has a licensing process in place for all UAV pilots. We understand that Transport Canada is attempting to ensure that all critical airspace users are going to have a common level of knowledge. In anticipation of this, Canfly Drones recommends all UAV pilots to start studying. Transport Canada currently does not recognise any particular training establishment, but they have published knowledge requirements for pilots of unmanned aircraft. Here is a good article on self study options in Canada. Transport Canada has released a helpful infographic on recreational use of a UAV.
Transport Canada has released the new exemptions to the requirements of operating a UAV under an SFOC in Canada. These exemptions are an update to those previously in effect to December of 2016, and will remain in effect until no later than December 31, 2019 UAV technology is still short of allowing a full integration into the Canadian airspace system. As Transport Canada has a mandate to protect airspace stakeholders, as well as the public, these exemptions were authorised by the Minister of Transport to allow non-recreational UAV users to operate in areas of low-risk to the general public and airspace users. An operator with a current or recent SFOC, will find the conditions required to exercise the exemptions run parallel to a good deal of conditions required by an SFOC. Although the exemptions are not a licence to operate a UAV in an unrestricted fashion, a UAV operator that flies repeatedly over the same site, which is located well outside of populated areas, may find their operation can easily fit into the requirements of the exemptions. The exemptions are divided for 2 categories of UAVs; the first section applies to non-recreational UAV operators, operating UAVs of 1 KG or less, and the second category applies to UAV operators operating UAVs greater than 1 KG to 25 KG. While nearly all of the conditions are identical to both weight categories of UAVs, the table below highlights most of the differences; 1 KG and less Greater than 1 KG, up to 25 KG Maximum distance from operator VLOS to a maximum of 1/4 NM VLOS to a maximum of 1/2 NM Minimum distance from built up areas Not over or within 3 NM Minimum lateral distance from non-participants 100 feet 500 feet Airspace type Class G uncontrolled Class G uncontrolled Minimum distance from aerodromes in CFS & WAS 5 NM 5 NM Minimum distance from unregistered aerodromes and heilports 3 NM 3 NM The included map (generated from OpenStreetMap data) shows an example of aerodrome and heliport density around Edmonton, Alberta. The shaded areas show either a 3 NM or 5 NM ring around an aerodrome, as applicable. It should be noted that this map does not show any of the controlled airspace, of which is a concern to UAV operators, as the exemptions are only authorized for Class G uncontrolled airspace. The purpose of the map is to show that an operator needs to move a long way out of an urban area, to get far enough away from both built-up areas, and aerodromes, in order to operate under the exemptions. Highlights of other requirements to operate under the exemption are; Minimum age of 18 (or 16 for academic purposes, under the supervision of an adult). Requirement of subscribing to liability insurance. Pilot to be fit to perform duties. 8 hours (or more) free from drugs or alcohol. Permission required from the property owner for the use of take-off and recovery points. Compliance to all Canadian laws that may apply to the operation. Site survey completed. Operator will produce all relevant documents to a peace office or Transport Canada inspector, upon request. Only operations in Class G uncontrolled airspace. Daylight hours. No higher than 300' AGL. No area of forest fire fighting activities. No flights over or within open air assemblies or sporting events. Notification to the Minister of Transport for operations. Training standards required for the UAV pilot. This list, combined with the table outlining some differences in the categories of exemptions, is not exhaustive. For those operators interested in applying the exemptions to their operations, familiarity with all conditions is required. The document is easy to read, and there is plenty of guidance material included with each condition.
Transport Canada has released a new new online form for reporting UAV incidents. The concept of the online form is a central repository for concerns any member of the public, in regards to drones. We need to emphasize that this does not replace 911/Emergency Services: If a UAV is witnessed endangering people or property, then emergency services need to be notified. The full press release may be read here. We are pleased to hear the Transport Canada is moving forward on educating the public on safe and legal UAV practises. We encourage recreational and commercial users familiarize themselves.
Transport Canada is currently working on a regulatory framework for commercial UAV use in Canada. The changes are scheduled to be made public in the Canada Gazette in the Spring of 2017. Highlights include; The regulatory exemptions will be updated prior to expiring on December 16, 2016. Clarification of recreational versus non-recreational users. Introduction of an "unregulated" of a threshold of 250g. Introduction of 1kg weight category. Marking, registration, and identification standards. UAV design standards. Pilot permit requirements versus knowledge requirements. Adjustments to age requirements, indoor and tethered operations, and liability insurance. These are only proposed changes, and is not certain to become law. Should you have concerns to the proposed changes, a good place to start is involvement with Unmanned Systems Canada. The complete Executive Summary to Stakeholders can be read here.