Drone Laws in Canada

Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in Canada

Transport Canada Civil Aviation regulates all transportation in Canada

Canada Government Website related to Drones and Drone Safety


UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in Canada

The Canadian agency responsible for drone safety, TCAA, has provided a number of internet-accessible details on flying for fun or for work. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details go to the link above.

Are drones allowed in Canada?

According to TCAA, drone use is allowed in Canada, subject to TCAA regulations. Read on for more details.

Here are the most important rules to know for flying a drone in Canada:

New rules for drones in Canada

On January 9, 2019, Canada published new rules for flying drones. These rules are now in effect.

Overview of the new rules

The new rules apply to Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), or “drones,” that: 

  • weigh 250 grams (g) up to and including 25 kilograms (kg), and 
  • are operated within the drone pilot’s visual-line-of-sight

The rules introduce two categories of drones operations: basic and advanced. The categories are based on distance from bystanders and on airspace rules.

Penalties

The new rules are enforced by Transport Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). There are serious penalties, for those who break the rules. Individuals and corporations can face fines or jail time for:

  • putting aircraft and people at risk
  • flying without a drone pilot certificate
  • flying unmarked or unregistered drones

Pilot certificates, knowledge tests, and flight reviews

All pilots of drones that weigh between 250 g and 25 kg must get a drone pilot certificate.

Pilots conducting basic operations need a Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations.

Pilots conducting advanced operations need a Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations. To get this certificate, they must pass the Small Advanced Exam and an in-person flight review. The flight review will assess a pilot’s ability to operate their drone safely.

Registration

All drones that weigh between 250 g and 25 kg must be registered with Transport Canada. Pilots must mark their drones with their registration number before they fly.

RPAS Safety Assurance

The RPAS Safety Assurance tells users the safety limits of the drone they are using. Pilots must operate their drone within the limits outlined in the RPAS Safety Assurance that its manufacturer declared to Transport Canada. An RPAS Safety Assurance is needed to conduct advanced operations.

Foreign operators

If you are a foreign operator (that is, you are not a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or a corporation incorporated by or under federal or provincial and you want to fly in Canadian airspace), you must have an approved Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) to fly a drone for any purpose (recreational, work or research).

You must already be allowed to use the drone for the same purpose in your home country. Include your country’s approval or authorization with your application for the SFOC.

As of 5/26/2020 – Please note, Canada is currently not accepting SFOC applications from visitors to Canada looking to fly recreationally. This change does not affect foreigners requesting an SFOC for commercial purposes. This temporary restriction will be re-evaluated in January 2021.


Notes For “Basic” Drone flying for fun in Canada

Canada does not make a clear distinction between hobbyists or recreational use and commercial use. Instead, they have crafted their rules around “Basic” and “Advanced” operations.

We will clarify the rules for basic drone operations here, and the advanced operations below.

The following rules apply to all drone operations:

  • All drones that weigh between 250 g and 25 kg must be registered with Transport Canada. Pilots must mark their drones with their registration number before they fly.
  • All pilots of drones that weigh between 250 g and 25 kg must get a drone pilot certificate.
  • Fly your drone where you can see it at all times
  • Fly below 122 meters (400 feet) in the air
  • Fly away from bystanders, at a minimum distance of 30 meters for basic operations
  • Do not fly at the site of emergency operations or advertised events
  • Avoid forest fires, outdoor concerts, and parades
  • Do not fly within 5.6 kilometers (3 nautical miles) from airports or 1.9 kilometers (1 nautical mile) from heliports
  • Fly far away from other aircraft
  • Do not fly anywhere near airplanes, helicopters, and other drones
  • Always respect the privacy of others while flying

Additional rules apply depending on your type of operation. The rules introduce two categories of drones operations: basic and advanced. The categories are based on distance from bystanders and on airspace rules.

Basic Operations

If you meet all 3 of these conditions, you’re conducting basic operations:

  • You fly it in uncontrolled airspace
  • You fly it more than 30 metres (100 feet) horizontally from bystanders
  • You never fly it over bystanders

If you do not meet any 1 of these 3 conditions, you are conducting advanced operations.

For example, let’s say you fly your drone more than 30 metres (100 feet) horizontally from bystanders but in controlled airspace. This operation is advanced because you’re flying in controlled airspace even if you’re more than 30 metres (100 feet) horizontally from bystanders.

For basic operations, here are some of the rules you must follow:

  • Register your drone with Transport Canada before you fly it for the first time
  • Mark your drone with its registration number
  • Pass the Small Basic Exam
  • Be able to show your Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations and proof of registration when you fly

Notes for Commercial Drone Services operations in Canada

The following rules apply to all drone operations:

  • All drones that weigh between 250 g and 25 kg must be registered with Transport Canada. Pilots must mark their drones with their registration number before they fly.
  • All pilots of drones that weigh between 250 g and 25 kg must get a drone pilot certificate.
  • Fly your drone where you can see it at all times
  • Fly below 122 meters (400 feet) in the air
  • Fly away from bystanders, at a minimum distance of 30 meters for basic operations
  • Do not fly at the site of emergency operations or advertised events
  • Avoid forest fires, outdoor concerts, and parades
  • Do not fly within 5.6 kilometers (3 nautical miles) from airports or 1.9 kilometers (1 nautical mile) from heliports
  • Fly far away from other aircraft
  • Do not fly anywhere near airplanes, helicopters, and other drones
  • Always respect the privacy of others while flying

Additional rules apply depending on your type of operation. The rules introduce two categories of drones operations: basic and advanced. The categories are based on distance from bystanders and on airspace rules.

Advanced Operations

If you meet any 1 of these conditions, you are conducting advanced operations:

  • You want to fly in controlled airspace
  • You want to fly over bystanders
  • You want to fly within 30 metres (100 feet) of bystanders (measured horizontally)

For advanced operations, here are some of the rules you must follow:

  • Register your drone with Transport Canada before you fly it for the first time
  • Mark your drone with its registration number
  • Pass the Small Advanced Exam
  • Pass a flight review with a flight reviewer
  • Be able to show your Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations and proof of registration when you fly your drone
  • Seek permission from air traffic control (likely NAV CANADA) to fly in controlled airspace (request an RPAS Flight Authorization from NAV CANADA)
  • Fly within the operational limits of your drone

You can only use drones that meet the safety requirements for the operation you want to conduct. See tips on choosing the right drone before you fly.

If you have a Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations, you do not need a Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations to conduct basic operations.


Useful published information on flying drones in Canada

Here is a useful page published by TCAA that discusses more details on flying drones in Canada

Here is a useful introduction video provided by TCAA…

NOTE: Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS), Small UAS, Remote Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and drone are interchangeable terms unless specified. Model aircraft, toy aircraft, Remote controlled aircraft, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.


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IMPORTANT NOTE

The content on this site is collated by volunteers from public general information. This material is not presented as legal advice of any kind, and we cannot guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Do not substitute the information you find here for legal advice from a licensed attorney who is authorized to practice in the jurisdiction. When in doubt, contact the local aviation authority responsible for drone safety, utilize a licensed drone service operator, and/or consult a qualified attorney.

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