From Robohub:

When Canadians attempt to characterize aspects of Canadian culture, it’s not uncommon to draw comparisons with the US. I recently noticed that as I respond to questions about the Canadian regulations surrounding commercial drones, I often begin by stating that our regulatory framework is quite distinct from that of the US – here’s why…

In Canada, commercial operators can apply to obtain Special Flight Operations Certificates (SFOCs) from Transport Canada. It takes Transport Canada about 20 days to assess applications, and last year the agency issued 945 SFOCs to applicants representing a variety of industries including aerial videography, agriculture and oil and gas.

Generally, the Canadian regulations do not establish bright line rules governing drone operations – for instance they do not specify whether you need a pilot’s license to complete a commercial drone flight, or whether it is permitted to fly beyond the visual line of sight. Rather, Transport Canada assesses applications using a case-by-case approach. In order to obtain approval, applicants must show that they can mitigate operational risks to an acceptable level.

In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been working to develop drone regulations since the enactment of the FAA Modernization Act of 2012. Until the framework is in place, those looking to fly for commercial purposes can only proceed by exemption. Most companies have been denied exemptions, the notable exceptions being a couple of oil companies that received approval to operate drones in remote areas of Alaska.

Last Thursday, the FAA extended regulatory exemptions to six Hollywood companies looking to film using drones. Although the Hollywood exemptions represent a move in a positive direction, the restrictions placed on the companies are quite onerous, for instance the operations must take place in a controlled closed-set environment and may only be completed below 400 feet and within the visual line of sight.

By comparison, commercial drone operations are the norm in Canada and will continue to be an exception in the US until the new rules are in place.

Views: 1206

Comment by mP1 on September 30, 2014 at 4:47am

Chris way to alienate Europe, Asia, Africa and the pacific.

Comment by Richard on September 30, 2014 at 5:53am
Thanks for the clear synopsis of the differences in the two approaches.

P.S. I don't see how anyone could think that this comparison excludes others. Not every discussion has to involve everyone else.
Comment by Gary McCray on September 30, 2014 at 12:54pm

Hi mP1,

I think the America / Canada comparison is valid on its own because we share not only borders but are really very close in many functional and governmental ways.

It wasn't an attempt to exclude anybody else, just to talk about our most immediate and similar neighbor.

What is sad is that Canada has been able to embrace and implement relatively functional drone policy and operations while the US and the FAA have been utterly failing to do so.

Canada is demonstrating a functional and population serving government while the US has been demonstrating what is becoming more and more it's defining characteristic of a government unable to do anything for anybody.

And least of all for the benefit of its own general population.

Best Regards,


Comment by mP1 on October 1, 2014 at 12:40am


There are plenty of other places outside America and they dont get the same repeated attention every other day, for the same topics. Anyone who came here would think there was only one country in the world.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on October 1, 2014 at 12:59am

There is only one at the back of the pack ;-)

Comment by John Arne Birkeland on October 1, 2014 at 5:03am

Like some have mentioned, this is more a case of Canada being in line with the rest of the world..

In fact my country Norway just recently eased up on the requirements and defined commercial UAS operational limitations for different classes of UAS operations. For example staying below 120m and withing VLOS require very little paper work. Long distance autonomous UAS require a bit more work and security clearances, but is still doable even for small start-up companies.

And this was done because the interest has spiked over the years, and the old system for commercial aviation was generating a lot of unneeded bureaucratic work.

And I am not being anti American now, but I think a big part of the reason why this went over so easily in Norway. Is because we don't have any large aviation companies, and that even if we did they would not be able to lobby the government to such a large degree as they can in the US.

Comment by Greg Nuspel on October 1, 2014 at 7:58am

It's funny how some people all of a sudden attack this because the US is mentioned. If you would read carefully it becomes obvious it is written from the Canadian perspective. I think it is great that others are adding their countries perspective as well. So for those that contribute meaning full content I commend you, as for the haters, troll along my friends. BTW I am a Canadian, but I know the US is a huge influence in our country so we are always comparing our differences. Actually we look for differences and celebrate them :-)

Comment by Andreas Gazis on October 1, 2014 at 12:27pm

I 'm from Europe but am not particularly bothered by the frequent North Am specific coverage. It's a big issue with a big part of the community, this is a forum for discussing this kind of thing, fair game. If members from other countries have something to discuss, post it.

Comment by Gary McCray on October 1, 2014 at 3:52pm

I definitely agree with Gary above that sadly the US is at the back of the pack.

Possibly the worst thing is that US influences so much of the rest of the world about this issue.

I would greatly prefer to see it the other way around.

The fact is, we have a lot of input on DIYDrones from Australia, the EU, the UK, Africa, South America, Japan, China, Russia, New Zealand and pretty much everywhere else, the only reason the US is especially noticeable on this particular issue is that they are doing such a spectacularly bad job of it.

Personally I am very happy to see so many countries making more reasonable regulations, its always possible that eventually the FAA or our government might feel obligated to not screw it up completely here.

Best Regards,


Comment by Caelan Midwood on October 1, 2014 at 3:59pm

It is also good to note that in Canada you can't fly beyond unaided line of sight (LOS). The unaided LOS effectively limits the maximum range your system can fly too (~1.5 km over flat ground with 20/20 vision), which means that the GCS has to be moved to cover large areas. Another important note is that you always have to have a safety operator looking at UAS at all times.

This is specifically problematic for Canadian industrial UAS companies since that can't utilize any medium range long endurance (MRLE) UASs that they develop in Canada, without working with the Canadian Armed Forces. As such, all MRLE are currently be exported to other nations (like Australia and Kenya).

Source: Unmanned Systems Canada and personal experience as an operator


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