Beginning the 1st of June, new drone regulations took effect in Canada that makes it illegal for anyone to fly a drone without a certification. And you know what? I’m with that.
Canada has implemented new laws that make it nearly impossible to fly a drone anywhere legally … my drone flying days have come to an end. – Peter McKinnon
Here’s the breakdown. Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA), the federal agency responsible for all aviation rules and regulations, has created a two tiered pilot certification requirement for any drone pilot flying a UAV of 250 grams – 25 Kilograms. That means just about everything from a DJI Spark to a DJI Matrice 600 and above.
They’ve made it so that anybody can fly almost nowhere, to almost no-one can fly a drone almost anywhere. It’s not just a hobbyist thing anymore. And without it, you may not fly in Canada AT ALL.
The tiers are for “Basic” operations and “Advanced” operations, and they have different requirements to observe.
- Under Basic operations, pilots may fly a drone within the weight limit
- May not fly within 30 meters (100 feet) or people. And never fly over bystanders
- Proof of basic pilot certificate and drone registration. Must be shown on demand
- Fly under 122 meters (400 feet)
- May not fly within emergency operations of advertised events
- May not fly within range of forest fires, concerts or parades
- Stay outside 5.6 kilometers (3 miles) from airports, 1.9 km (1 mile) from heliports
- steer clear of all other aircraft
- respect privacy
- Advanced drone pilots may fly in controlled airspace
- fly within 30 meters (100 feet) of bystanders, and may fly up to 400 meters above them.
- Proof of advanced pilot certificate and drone registration. Must be shown on demand
- Fly a drone that meets RPAS Safety standards (see list here)
- Must survey the area of flight for obstacles, buildings and power lines
To be basic drone certified, student pilots may take the Small Basic online exam, while advanced drone certifications require passing the Small Advanced online exam, plus a complete a flight review. Once passed, basic students may print their certification from online, while advanced are required to apply for an Advanced Operations Pilot certificate, which costs $25.
Additionally, the remain certified, Advanced drone pilots must have a biannual flight review, must like a private pilot, and keep their skills up to date. To prove that your skills are up to date, advanced pilots have the choice of:
- attending a safety seminar endorsed by Transport Canada Civil Aviation
- completing a recurrent drone training program
- completing a self-paced study program endorsed by Transport Canada Civil Aviation
Additionally, when flying, drone pilots must make out a secure launching perimeter, have an official TCCA navigation map, make a flight plan, and be able to keep contact with nearby TCCA Air Traffic controllers in the event of a flyaway or other drone mishap. Many apps are available for your mobile device which will give you access to the ATC radio feed.
Note: Members of the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC) may be exempt from Part IX of the Canadian Aviation Regulations if they meet the conditions set out in Exemption NCR-011-2019.
Fines: Failure to follow Canada’s new rules will also come with pricey fines as follows:
Fines for individuals
- up to $1,000 for flying without a drone pilot certificate
- up to $1,000 for flying unregistered or unmarked drones
- up to $1,000 for flying where you are not allowed
- up to $3,000 for putting aircraft and people at risk
Fines for corporations
- up to $5,000 for flying without a drone pilot certificate
- up to $5,000 for flying unregistered or unmarked drones
- up to $5,000 for flying where you are not allowed
- up to $15,000 for putting aircraft and people at risk
If you break more than one rule, you could also receive multiple penalties. And while it isn’t required for basic drone operations, the TCCA does recommend public liability insurance when operating your drone, and most home owners insurance will not cover you.
I’m OK with all this. Sure, it’s a lot to learn and a lot to follow just to go fly and grab a quick aerial shot. But as a licensed private pilot, I am well aware of the dangers of an aerial collision. Even more so with smaller drones and planes. So this is a step to make sure that those who take to the skies with their UAVs, do so seriously and responsibly.
The good news is, that if you’re a certified advanced drone pilot, you will be able to charge more because your skills will be more in demand. If you’re not, well, you stand to risk a lot just to get a single shot.