There are two fantastic tools available to RPAS pilots in Canada. Both have been available since June 1, 2019, and were released to coincide with the PART IX of the CARS taking effect. Both are invaluable to the site survey and flight planning stages.
NRC drone site selection tool
The first tool comes from the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada. Their online drone site selection tool will show most (but not all) of the potential ‘no fly zones’. The tool allows the user to choose between a basic and advanced operations. With the filter selected to ‘basic’, areas where basic operations are not permitted turn red. Turn the filter category to ‘advanced’, and those areas become yellow.
Much of the interpretation of aviation maps has now been done for the user. Some notable items and areas on display for the user are;
- CAR 901.47 aerodromes that apply to both basic and advanced operations.
- CAR 901.73 airports and heliports, for which an advanced certificate is required. Note: While most airports and heliports may be in controlled airspace, it is not a requirement. There are many airports and heliports that exist in uncontrolled airspace, and that fact has the potential to cause confusion.
- Controlled airspace up to 400’ above ground level. Not all of the controlled airspace is managed by NavCanada. The tool also brings in some information regarding the airspace operating authority, and notes to assist the RPAS operator in any special coordinations that may be required for access to the airspace.
- National Parks which are regulated by the Aircraft Access Regulations.
The NRC drone site selection tool is a fantastic tool for site surveys, but it is not absolute. Pilots are still required to make themselves familiar with local and municipal regulations, as those are not included in the database. Further, temporary airspace changes by NOTAM and airspace above 400’ above ground level (for those with an appropriate SFOC) are not included, thus pilots still need to conduct site survey planning using traditional means.
And the price: Free!
NavCanada RPAS flight authorization request tool
The second tool for RPAS users in Canada is from NavCanada. All RPAS operations in controlled airspace managed by NavCanada require authorization. The RPAS Flight Authorization Request tool is a central location for requesting the authorization across Canada. The online webform is fairly straightforward to use, and requests in low risk areas of NavCanada managed airspace may have an approval time as quick as an hour.
One helpful feature of the new system is contact information. The days of scrounging through the Canada Flight Supplement and calling multiple numbers are gone. When an authorization is granted, the form will include contact information for commencing and ceasing operations (if requested by NavCanada), and possibly even who to contact in the event of fly-away.
There is one caveat; the authorization request form will only work with airspace managed by NavCanada (Class C, D, or E). Special use airspace (Class F) is a still a different procedure.
As the system evolves, watch for these tools to be integrated in your favourite site survey tool.