Author: Marc Dubrule


Writing Transport Canada RPAS exams

Preparing for the Transport Canada Pilot Certificate Small Remotely Piloted System (RPAS), Visual line-of-sight (VLOS).

With the publication of the Part IX to the Canadian Aviation Regulations in the Canada Gazette, a pilot certificate for Small Remotely Piloted System(RPAS), Visual line-of-sight(VLOS) endorsed for ‘advanced’ operations will be needed by June 1, 2019, in order to operate in controlled airspace, near airports and heliports, and to operate near people. Transport Canada has already opened up the drone portal system for the administering of the exams, and self-declared training organizations are revising curriculum in order prepare students for the online exam. In addition to the online examination, the RPAS pilot will need to undertake a flight review with a designated flight reviewer, but this article will only focus on preparation for the advanced online exam.

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Drones and NOTAMS

Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) have been used in aviation since the days of the original teletype. Sending data across wireless was once upon a time a costly process, where only the alphanumeric characters critical to the message were transmitted. That’s how NOTAMs become messages full of abbreviations, half words, and words without vowels.

While NOTAMs serve a specific purpose to manned aviation, unmanned aviation is still trying to determine how to best use the tool. Around 2013, when cost and reliability of consumer grade drones allowed for their proliferation, regulators sought to notify manned aviation of potential aviation hazards. The quickest tool to use was the NOTAM. For example, airplanes and cranes do not generally mix well together, especially in low visibility weather. As a temporary crane will not be illustrated on aeronautical charts, pilots are officially notified of the hazard through the publication of a NOTAM.

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Flight Planning for UAVs in Canada

Canadian UAV operators need to conform to the manned aviation system at every opportunity.  The is no industry standard for presentation of aviation data in ground control software (GCS) or UAV interfaces, and manufacturers are left to present information they believe is relevant. The information to present is being decided by engineers and marketing people, not necessarily experts of flight regulations in the county of intended use. Ultimately, responsibility rests with the unmanned pilot to be aware that the data being presented by the manufacturer may not be valid, accurate, or relevant. When a drone flies where it should not, regulators and enforcement will not allow blame to be deferred to the manufacturer (because the manufacturer allowed to drone to operate where it should not); the buck stops with the pilot-in-command!  There are some very good (free) tools available to unmanned pilots to assist in the mission planning and site survey phases of operations.

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How many manuals do I need to fly a…

Recreational drone pilots

In Canada, the quick answer is none.  When Transport Canada released Interim Order No. 8 Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft in 2017, there was no requirement for the operator to have any level of minimum knowledge of the model/UAV being operated.  The operating interfaces of modern recreational UAVs are becoming so intuitive that any operator with a good working knowledge of smart phones, can easily start flying in a matter of minutes from bringing home a new acquisition from the local electronics store.

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Collision between manned and unmanned aircraft in Canada

The Transport Safety Board of Canada just released a fact-gathering investigation into an in-flight collision between a drone and a 9 passenger commercial aircraft (Beechcraft King Air 100).  Although there was a very large potential for disaster, thankfully there were no injuries, and the greatest damage appears to be the disintegration of the drone.

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Bridging the Gap

Canfly Drones will be expanding our blog, offering articles on how borrowing practises from commercial aviation can benefit UAV/drone service providers.

In the early days of setting up a UAV services provider, I learned that when speaking with Transport Canada inspectors, if I gave my brief background as an airline pilot, the pace of the conversation accelerated. A whole different world exists that people immersed in Canadian Avation share. From a common set of regulations (Canadian Aviation Regulations) and industry practises, to a whole new language of acronyms and technical terms, those with the knowledge base are able to communicate more efficiently, as there is no necessity to lay a common knowledge foundation. I remember an instance of listening to two nurses speaking about their workplace. Although the nurses worked in different departments of the same hospital, both were able to fully understand the difficulties and rewards of the others position. On the other hand, I was lost!

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New rules for operating drones recreationally in Canada

Note: Since this publication, Interim Order No. 8 has been released.  This post has been edited to reflect the changes.

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 an 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 enrollment with the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC).  Canfly Drones has built a map of the Edmonton area, showing shaded circles around aerodromes and heliports, and also the restricted airspace in the area of Namao.  It should also be noted that the City of Edmonton has bylaws to in place that require a UAV operator to seek permission from the city before use of any parks for the operation of unmanned/model aircraft.  Therefore, before any recreational flights occur in the City of Edmonton, you would need a very large backyard to satisfy the condition of flying to no closer than 75 m (or 30 m) from any building, vehicles, animals, crowds.  For reference, most properties have backyards of between 10 to 20 meters width.

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New exemptions to the requirement of having an SFOC…

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 curren (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.

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Drone incident reporting form


Transport Canada has released a new new online form for reporting UAV incidents in Canada. The concept of the online form is a central repository for concerns by 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 form may be found 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 update to UAV stakeholders June 2016


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.