Several countries have been releasing drone laws lately. Canada’s drone regulations were announced and came into effect since June 1st, 2019. The new laws call for more rigorous training and licensing to use drones. These laws have raised the bar for any kind of drone operation in the country. Heavy penalties will supposedly be levied on lawbreakers.

General Rules

To operate a drone safely, the user must fly the drone:

  • Where it is always in the line of sight.
  • Not above the maximum altitude of 122 meters (400 feet).
  • At a safe distance from any person (30 meters for basic operations).
  • Away from emergency operations and advertised events.
  • Away from crowded areas like concerts or parades.
  • Away from heliports (1.9 Km) and airports (5.6 Km).
  • Far away from other aircraft and any other aerial vehicles.

Drone users must respect the privacy of others at all times.

However, the Transport department of Canada has made two major categories for drone laws. First is for Basic Drone Operations and the second is for Advanced Drone Operations. Each of the two categories has separate laws. Basic operations are those which take place in unregulated airspace, away from people. Example: in agriculture, oil and gas, or any other commercial usage. Advanced operations take place in regulated airspace or around people.

Rules for Basic Drone Operations

Drone pilots must meet three important criteria to identify their drone operation as basic:

  1. Flying in uncontrolled airspace.
  2. Flying 30 meters (100 feet) horizontally from bystanders.
  3. Never flying directly above any bystander.
Drone laws in Canada
An example of Basic Operation.

If these criteria are fulfilled, the operation qualifies as Basic. The criteria are simple but are strictly imposed. Even if the pilot fails to meet any one of the three, the operation immediately becomes an Advanced operation. Thus the rules for basic operations are as follows:

  • Register the drone with Transport Canada
  • Mark the drone with its registration number
  • Pass the ‘Small Basic Exam
  • Must be able to show pilot certificate- Basic Operations and proof of registration while flying.

Rules for Advanced Drone Operations

The drone operation is deemed Advanced if:

  1. The drone is flying in controlled airspace.
  2. The pilot wants to fly the drone within 30 meters (100 feet) of bystanders.
  3. The pilot wants to fly the drone over bystanders.
Drone laws in Canada
Drone flying directly over people comes under an Advanced Operation.

The rules for Advanced Operations are slightly different. Apart from the written test, Advanced Operations will also require a flight review. The rules are as follows:

  • Register the drone with Transport Canada
  • Mark the drone with its registration number
  • Pass the Small Advanced Exam
  • Pass a flight review with a flight reviewer
  • Must be able to show Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations and proof of registration while flying the drone
  • Seek permission from air traffic control (likely NAV CANADA) to fly in controlled airspace (request an RPAS Flight Authorization from NAV CANADA)
  • Only fly within operational limits of the drone.

Exceptions and Choosing the Right Drone

Micro-drones, weighing under 250 grams, and drones weighing above 25 Kilograms do not fall under Basic or Advanced Operation categories. They need not be registered but must be flown responsibly and always in the line of sight. However, in the case of drones above 25 Kilograms, special permission from Transport Canada is required to fly. Also, if a pilot has an Advanced Pilot Certificate, he/she does not need another certificate for Basic Operations.

Choosing the right and legal drone is an important aspect of drone flight in Canada. This is because not all drones qualify the safety parameters set by the government. Thus, there is a list of approved drones to take flight and only those must be flown.

Many of the modern drones, such as DJI drones, are not approved for flight. This approach of categorizing drones and specifying the safety parameters could prove to be challenging to both regulators and manufacturers in the long run.