How To Fly Drones Legally in Canada (Part 1)
This blog by AirBlade UAV is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to provide legal advice or opinions of any kind and may not be used for professional or commercial purposes. It is the readers' responsibility to refer to the Canadian Aviation Regulations and its related guidance to make the operation of your drone comply with the law of Canada.
AirBlade Uav is a drone product provider with top-notch customer services in North America; AirBlade is run by pilots and for pilots. Learn more about us at https://www.airbladeuav.com/.
HOW TO FLY YOUR DRONE LEGALLY IN CANADA?
Drones need registrations and drone pilots need certificates
Drones, including fpv drones and cinelifters, are all legal in Canada. However, once you fly a drone, you become a pilot, and you will need to comply with the Canadian Aviation Regulations.
Drone laws in Canada and where to find them
In Canada, drones and drone pilots are regulated by Part IX of Canadian Aviation Regulations, SOR 96-443 (the “Regulations”).
We need to be mindful of the three following technical terms when reading the Regulations as well as any law and technical guides in Canada concerning drone operation:
- “Remotely Piloted Aircraft System” (RPAS) is the word to denote “drones”, sometimes they are used interchangeably.
- “Visual-line-of-sight” (VLOS) means assuring your drone is within sight throughout the flight without supporting equipment such as binoculars. This includes not flying into clouds, fog, or obstructions such as trees and buildings.
- “Bystander” refers to anyone not involving in the flight, excluding the pilot and crew.
Transport Canada also enacted the following guidance specifying certain sections of Part IX of the Regulations, which pilots must comply to:
- The Knowledge Requirements for Pilots of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, 250 g up to and including 25 kg, Operating within Visual Line-of-Sight (VLOS), which serves as a general guidance for drone pilots when operating and as a preparation document for examinations,
- Standard 921 - Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft in Visual Line-Of-Sight (VLOS) - Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs), and
- Standard 922 - RPAS Safety Assurance - Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs).
The webpage of Transport Canada, at https://tc.canada.ca/en/aviation/drone-safety, is the gateway through which pilots can obtain knowledge about drone operation, drone registration, pilot certificates, and the links to the Regulations and Transport Canada’s technical guidance.
The Drone Management Portal (Portal) of Transport Canada is a gateway through which you can:
- Register and deregister your drone
- Take online exams
- Apply for your drone pilot certificate
- Access your flight review results
- Update your contact information
Flying of micro drones, i.e., drones weighing less than 250 grams also does not need to comply with Part IX of the Regulations, but their pilots must always be mindful of flying in a reasonable way.
Model Aeronautics Association of Canada and their members in good standing are also from Part IX of the Regulations under Exemption NCR-011-2019, signed by the Director of Civil Aviation.
Registering your drone
You can register your drone through the Portal.
All drones between 250 g and 25 kg in weight, including custom-built drones and drones built from a kit or off-the shelf must be registered.
You must update on the Portal if you move or change your address. You must deregister your drone if you sell or transfer its ownership, lose it, or damage it beyond repair.
You don’t need to register a drone under 250 g; however, if the drone has any attachments which makes the total weight 250 g or more, it needs to be registered on the Portal.
Drones over 25 kg also require a special flight operations certificate (see Point 5 below).
You can only fly your drone after you have registered it and make sure the registration number clearly marked on the drone during the operation.
Basic operation of drones
If you are flying your drone under ALL of the following conditions, then you are conducting a basic operation:
- In uncontrolled airspace
- More than 30 metres (100 feet) horizontally from bystanders
- Not over bystanders
- More than 3 nautical miles from a certified airport or a military aerodrome
- More than 1 nautical mile from a certified heliport
To fly your drones legally under basic operation, you must make sure to:
- Register your drone
- Hold either a pilot certificate — small remotely piloted aircraft (VLOS) — basic operations or a pilot certificate — small remotely piloted aircraft (VLOS) — advanced operations
- Keep your skills up to date within 24 months preceding the flight
For registering your drone, we discussed it in Point 2.
To obtain a pilot certificate for basic operations or advanced operation, you need to pass a Small Basic Exam. The knowledge covered in the exam is presented in the following topics of the Knowledge Requirements for Pilots of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, 250 g up to and including 25 kg, Operating within Visual Line-of-Sight (VLOS):
- applicable provisions of the Aeronautics Act and the CARs;
- air traffic rules and procedures;
- RPAS airframes, power plants, propulsion and systems;
- human factors, including pilot decision-making;
- air navigation;
- flight operations;
- theory of flight;
- radiotelephony; and
- operations carried out by remotely piloted aircraft systems under Part IX of the Regulations.
The exam will be conducted online through the Portal; you will have to answer 35 questions in 90 minutes and the passing grade is 65%. Once you pass the exam, you will be able to download and print your pilot certificate through the Portal.
Pilots must show the proof of keeping their skills up to date within 24 months preceding the flight, which means during that time:
- They hold a pilot certificate – basic operation or advanced operation, or
- They passed the Small Basic Exam, or
- If they are already possessing pilot certificates, they have completed a recurrent training activity by completing a questionnaire at https://tc.canada.ca/en/aviation/drone-safety/getting-drone-pilot-certificate/remotely-piloted-aircraft-system-rpas-recency-requirements-self-paced-study-program from question 1 to 21, then print the completed questionnaire and keep it with you when flying.
Pilots must always keep pilot certificates or a copy of the completed recurrent training activity questionnaires, together with the registration number of the drones “easily accessible” during the flight.