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Think safety first

More and more people are using unmanned aircraft for work or pleasure. Transport Canada regulates their use to keep the public and our airspace safe.

Aircraft without a pilot on board go by many names—unmanned air vehicle (UAV), remotely piloted aircraft system, model aircraft, remote control aircraft, and drone.

Call it what you want, but always think safety first.

Safety guidelines

You are responsible to fly your aircraft safely and legally. In Canada, you must:

  • Follow the rules set out in the Canadian Aviation Regulations.

  • Respect the Criminal Code as well as all municipal, provincial, and territorial laws related to trespassing and privacy

Transport Canada expects you to follow these basic Do’s and Don’ts.


  • Only fly your aircraft during daylight and in good weather (not in clouds or fog).

  • Always keep your aircraft in sight, where you can see it with your own eyes – not only through an on-board camera, monitor or smartphone.

  • Make sure your aircraft is safe for flight before take-off. Ask yourself, for example, are the batteries fully charged? Is it too cold to fly?

  • Know if you need permission to fly and when to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate

  • Respect the privacy of others – avoid flying over private property or taking photos or videos without permission.

Don’t fly:

  • Closer than 9 km from any airport, heliport, or aerodrome.

  • Higher than 90 metres from above the ground.

  • Closer than 150 metres from people, animals, buildings, structures, or vehicles.

  • In populated areas or near large groups of people, including sporting events, concerts, festivals, and firework shows.

  • Near moving vehicles, avoid highways, bridges, busy streets or anywhere you could endanger or distract drivers.

  • Within restricted airspace, including near or over military bases, prisons, and forest fires.

  • Anywhere you may interfere with first responders

Use this infographic to help you understand the Dos and Don’ts of flying safely:

Permission and safety requirements

To fly your unmanned aircraft legally, you may need to follow strict safety conditions outlined in an exemption or apply for permission from Transport Canada. It depends on the type of aircraft, its weight, as well as how and where you plan to use it.

If your aircraft:

  • Weighs 35 kg or more, you need to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate before you can use it.

  • Weighs less than 35 kg and is used for recreational purposes, you don’t need permission to fly.

Unmanned aircraft that weigh less than 25 kg may qualify for an exemption to the rules, which will allow you to fly without permission. 

If your aircraft: 

  • Weighs 2 kg or less and you can meet the safety conditions in the Transport Canada exemption for UAVs that weigh less than 2 kg or less, you don’t need to request permission to fly.

  • Weighs between 2.1 kg and 25 kg and you can meet the safety conditions in the Transport Canada exemption for UAVs that weigh between 2.1 kg and 25 kg, you don’t need to request permission to fly. However, you must email Transport Canada or by completing the submission form with: 

    1. Your name, address, and phone number
    2. UAV model and serial number
    3. A description of the operation
    4. The geographical boundaries of the operation
Provide your information to Transport Canada by filling out the submission form

If you cannot or choose not to meet the safety conditions in the UAV exemptions, you must apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate. 

Use this infographic to help you understand the rules and find out if you need permission to fly.

Infographic (PDF)


Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1:

Do the exemptions for small UAVs apply to me?


It depends on your type of aircraft, its weight, as well as how and where you plan to use it. Our infographic will help you understand if the exemptions apply to you or if you need permission to fly. 

If you qualify for an exemption, you must meet the safety conditions at all times. For more information, please read the General safety practices for model aircraft and unmanned air vehicle systems.

Question 2:

What training is required to fly a UAV under the exemptions?


Each exemption contains different training requirements. For example, to fly a UAV that weighs between 2.1 kg and 25 kg UAV without permission, the operator must be trained to understand:

  • airspace classification and structure

  • weather and notice to airmen (NOTAM) reporting services

  • aeronautical charts and the Canada Flight Supplement

  • relevant sections of the Canadian Aviation Regulations.

Question 3:

What is the purpose of a Special Flight Operations Certificate?


The Canadian Aviation Regulations require Special Flight Operations Certificates so that Transport Canada can verify that operators can use their UAV reliably and safely.

The Special Flight Operations Certificate contains conditions specific to the proposed use, such as maximum altitudes, minimum distances from people and property, operating areas, and coordination requirements with air traffic services.

Question 4:

How do I apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate?


You must email a detailed application to the nearest Transport Canada regional office. Your application must include your contact information and describe how, when and where you plan to use your UAV, as well as how you plan to deal with the safety risks. 

You can find detailed information on what you need to include in your application athttps://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/opssvs/managementservices-referencecentre-documents-600-623-001-972.htm.

If you have any questions about applying for a Special Flight Operations Certificate, please contact your regional Transport Canada office or services@tc.gc.ca.

Question 5:

How long does it take to get a Special Flight Operations Certificate?


Transport Canada processes applications on a first-come-first-served basis, and aims to process them within 20 working days. This means:

  • It may take longer if we must contact you for more information or have received a large number of applications.

  • You should apply at least 20 working days before you intend to use your UAV.

Question 6:

How long is a Special Flight Operations Certificate valid?


A Special Flight Operations Certificate is valid for a limited period of time.

If you have a proven track record of operating your UAV safely, Transport Canada may:

  • Approve longer-term validity periods

  • Approve larger geographic areas

  • Grant new applications more quickly

Question 7:

How does Transport Canada enforce the regulations?


Transport Canada regulates the use of all aircraft, manned and unmanned, to keep the public and our airspace safe.

If the department receives a report of an incident, one of our inspectors will verify that the operator followed the rules and used the aircraft safely. Local police may also verify if other laws were broken, including the Criminal Code and privacy laws.

For example:

  • If an operator is flying for recreational purposes, it’s illegal to fly an aircraft in a way that puts aviation safety at risk. The courts would decide on the penalty.

  • If an operator doesn’t meet a condition in one of the exemptions, they will no longer qualify to fly without permission and must apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate.

  • If an operator is flying an aircraft without a Special Flight Operations Certificate, and should have one, Transport Canada can issue fines up to $5,000 for an individual and up to $25,000 for a corporation.

  • If an operator does not follow the requirements of their Special Flight Operations Certificate, Transport Canada can issue fines of up to $3,000 for an individual and up to $15,000 for a corporation.

Question 8:

Does Transport Canada plan to review the current regulations for UAVs?


Yes. Transport Canada introduced new exemptions for small UAVS in November 2014. The department continues to work with stakeholders and international partners to review and update safety regulations that will address developments in this growing sector and advancements in technology. Our goal is always to maintain the safety of those on the ground and in the sky.

Question 9:

What laws apply to unmanned aircraft?


In aviation, you must always think safety first. In addition to respecting the Canadian Aviation Regulations, you must follow the rules in all acts and regulations—including the Criminal Code as well as all municipal, provincial, and territorial laws regarding issues such as trespassing and privacy.

If you think someone has committed a criminal offense, please contact your local police department.   

If you are concerned about the safe operation of an aircraft, you can report it to Transport Canada at services@tc.gc.ca.

Question 10:

Why are there so many different terms for unmanned aircraft?


You may know them as “drones”, but the aviation community uses many different terms. The words to describe unmanned aircraft are changing almost as quickly as the technology itself.

In Canada, our laws use two terms:

  • Model aircraft describes those usually used by hobbyists for recreational purposes.

  • Unmanned air vehicle, or UAV, generally refers to more complex operations used for commercial purposes.

Other countries use the term “remotely piloted aircraft system”, or RPAS. The International Civil Aviation Organization uses this term as a catch-all for all unmanned aircraft.

Call your aircraft what you like—but Transport Canada expects you to operate it safely and legally!

Question 11:

How many Special Flight Operations Certificates has Transport Canada issued?


Transport Canada issues more Special Flight Operations Certificates each year, as UAVs grow in popularity. Between 2010 and 2013, we issued 1,527 approvals for UAV operations.

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  • This is asinine. Don't fly within 150m of buildings? Even one story buildings? So like my neighbors shed? Avoid flying over private property or taking photos or videos without permission? Excuse me but where does that leave to fly? I guess I'd just have to fill up my car and drive 4-5 hours until I can't see any sign of human existence then I'm all set? lol 95% of flyers will at any given time be breaking one of these rules. It's not a step forward.

    I would suggest the best way to make it as safe as possible without making us all criminals is to make a few obvious laws. A- Don't fly over 400 feet or with X miles from airports or large public gatherings. B- Private citizens have a right to deny you the use of flying over their airspace and or property. $500 fine if it can be readily determined you knew of the objection and flew anyway. $1000 fine for any public or private property damage in addition to any other incurred liabilities if your uav hits and damages anything. $10,000 if anybody got hurt. Get the idea?? You don't try and define a million things you can't do just make it known that if you keep pissing somebody off you will get a fine and if your not damn sure you can operate it safely and your uav hits somebody's car or whatever you WILL get a fine if caught PLUS related expenses. This will make people be VERY careful without banning 95% of activities. It also gives a police officer a bit of leeway to make a judgment call about repeat offenders or otherwise dummies who just don't seem to get it or want to get it. 

  • Hi all

    More people die from guns in north America , but you can't get any real type of regulations to deal with that , but you get this hysteria about drones , dose  not seem rational to me , hey but I don't live there, just wondering.

  • I hope the FAA  does something very similar. But don't count on it. 

  • Rob, it comes down to the fact, in the end, like any business in North America, it will be the lawyers and insurance companies that control the industry. The regs, as they stated, will keep them at bay, and give us a set of rules that will make sure they stay there, at least for sometime.

    Fact is, counter to what many believe, flying is dangerous. Be it aircraft, drone, or fools that like to jump out of aircraft for fun. We need rules, to keep the danger low for people on the ground. We need to consider how to do what we do, and keep doing it. These regs are very well thought out IMHO. 

    We already have three more clients, above ground, where so far all we have been able to do is below ground (mining), just because of the regs.  

  • sorry , did not mean to come off wrong, just the process confused me...

  • I agree with Rob - it all looks fine and reasonable until you read the 9 km built-up area restriction.  What is the safety rationale for needing a 9 km buffer from say a small town? 

  • For free operation of anykind of uav still 25 kilo don't forgot to fly in Class G aera... like the reaL documentation explain....

    North of Canada...... Hello what your name ? Polar Bear ...mmm nice to meet you

    Can I fly with my -10 deg certiefied phantom 2 ?... Mmmmm anyway I can't I can't see the sun and it's to windy....

    Sorry for the disturb and please don't eat me....

  • Dan, what do you like about them?  Can you go into more detail?  Just curious to hear your perspective.

  • Richard - You're not serious, I hope. Sorry, but these are the kinds of myopic hobbyist thoughts about air safety that make me just shake my head.

    I've heard others say things like they can control the aircraft more safely using FPV than with line of sight. Sure, that's nice for you. But maintaining a safe airspace isn't just about you!

    We as a community need to think about sbout air safety from the perspective of pilot's flying full size aircraft. Should they have to watch out for small drones among the backdrop of terrestrial lights when flying at night?
  • Can't fly at night? I can see mine better at night with lights than during the day.

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