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New rules for operating drones recreationally in Canada

  • News
  • by Marc Dubrule
  • 3-25-2017

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.