New Transport Canada UAV Regulations Arrive!


Well, the moment we have all been waiting for in Canada is finally here.  Transport Canada has published the new UAV regulations.  It is important to understand that these regulations effectively come in 2 parts.  Basically, you have one set of regulations for UAV's less than 25kg and for simple operations.  Then another set for UAV's larger than 25kg and/or complicated operations.  Then, within those two groups, there are more groups.  For the first, it's broken down into <2kg class, and 2<>25kg class.

The rules allow quite free operation of <2kg UAV's.  In a nutshell, you have to not be stupid, and fly safely.  You can't be drunk.  Know how to fly.  Have a plan.  And remain at least 30m away from people and things not involved in the operation.

For UAV's less than 25kg, there are a few additional, reasonable additions.  You must have a fire extinguisher, and remain 150m away from people and things not involved.


The only question I have is, what does it mean for a building to "be involved in the operation"?  If I am taking photo/video of a building, does that mean it's involved?  I would assume so.  But, what about neighboring buildings?  Are they involved?  Because, it is uncommon to have solitary buildings 150m away from any other buildings. If this rule is rigidly applied, then it means you can pretty much only fly larger craft in remote areas.

Now, for UAV's over 25kg and/or operations not meeting these simple rules, there is a much more complicated document which applies:

I've skimmed through this, and it appears to be similarly reasonable.  There are various levels of permissions, etc.  too much to get into in detail here.

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  • Thanks George. 

    And good catch on the By-law. For any other Torontonians looking at this, the by-laws may be found at and the pertinant law is 

    § 608-19. Model aircraft and rockets. While in a park, no person shall operate powered models of aircraft, rockets, watercraft or vehicles unless authorized by permit.

  • Peter

    The 9 km applies to non-recreational, aka 'commercial', flying.

    My own club field (Markham) is only about 3 km from Markham airport.

    But I'm pretty sure Toronto city bylaws forbid any RC flying in parks (most cities do). You can probably find those by-laws on-line.

    Your only chance would be a private RC club flying field (as a member) - I'm not aware of any inside Toronto (but several around it in the GTA).

    Of course, this all pre-supposes you want to stay within the rules (which I'd advise).



  • I live downtown Toronto. The island airport means all of downtown, including the parks and Island, is easily within 9km of an airport. Does this mean I can't recreationally fly my mini-quad on a soccer field or in a park? 

    It's a shame there isn't a recreational "ceiling". I've kicked a football higher than I usually fly.

    I found this map really interesting, essentially all of Toronto is within 9km of an airport.

  • I think reducing the overall weight of your set-up could still be important. As Calvin's pointed out, weight will be a factor in the cost or even availability of insurance.

    It might be a factor also in SFOC approvals for a given degree of 'unorthodox'. The more you wish to push the boundaries of what's considered conventional (especially payloads,for example), the less you want to be pushing boundaries anywhere else (airframe/location etc). With approvals comes a track record, then easier and/or broader approvals.

    Start as small as you can within reason, as conservative as you usefully can (airframes, payloads, and locations), and build up gradually and cautiously (it's the Canadian way!). 

    When I first heard the 2kg threshold (before the specifics came), I had a different reaction. 'Uh-oh. People are going to cut corners like mad to squeeze under that because the payoff is 'freedom'. They'll start skimping on airframes, leading to less safety, not more. They'll be falling out of the sky.'

    (Ok - 'they'll be falling out of the sky even more than they do now').

    I know I was fantasizing about balsa for a while.

    The insurance restriction at least seems to preclude that risk, so perhaps they have a point.

    Hopefully, a little time without serious incident and they'll consider gradual relaxations - such as slowly raising the 2 kg threshhold and shrinking the 9 km radius.

    (another distinction between < 2kg and 2-25 kg is the prohibition on any payloads that can be 'jettisoned/dropped/detached' in the larger class but not the smaller. They state this is because they don't consider such payloads realistic below 2 kg, but someone will prove them wrong.)


  • Jorge,  You are correct to say you do not need a SFOC for recreational use under 35 kg.  The distance is always in a straight line or as the crow flies so it does not matter how far it is by car.

  • Correct me if I am wrong but,

    I fly my <2KG quadcopter for the pure fun of it, I do some FPV from time to time and I only fly in an open field (2KM long by 200m Wide) at my friends house in a rural area. The closest airport is 11.5KM away by car (probably less than 9KM if I drew a straight line). No lasers on my quad, rarely go above 40m and the only thing below my UAV is.... grass/snow. Am I right to say I do not need an SFOC?

    I was under the impression that MOST people fly for recreational purposes. It is just sad to see how overwhelmingly strict the rules are for the non-recreational market.

  • I was really thinking that for UAV's <2kg, the requirements would be very low.  I hope they quickly reconsider and allow <2kg systems in the same places they now allow recreational usage.  This would greatly ease the workload of processing SFOC's, while still being extremely low risk.  In fact, doing this might reduce the overall risk of UAV operations, since companies would be encouraged to develop very light weight systems that present little physical risk.

    I was very surprised to see how similar the exemption requirements are for <2kg and 2><25kg machines.  There really is almost no incentive to shink the UAV size.  I had stripped down my mapping heli in anticipation of the new rules, getting it under 2kg.  But at this point I might as well just go with a 20kg gas powered heli instead.  It's actually easier to operate, and there's little incentive no choose a small electric machine.

  • The reality is that most operations will still require a SFOC.  The exemptions will apply to some operators but not the majority.  It is a step in the right direction, but it is not going to open the doors wide open like some people thought when the announcement was made. I think the exemptions follow the conservative approach of Transport Canada.  I also expect we will see further changes to the rules as time goes on.  At least we have a frame work where commercial operations are allowed even if we may not agree with all of the rules, it is a starting point.  At this point I do not see the new regulations speeding up the SFOC process dramatically.  There will be operators that will be SFOC exempt for some missions and for others they will require a SFOC.

  • Lasers still possible with an SFOC.

    Plus a Health Canada review (30 days +)

     "There are no exceptions to the requirement for this process. For example, even if the aircraft is going to be fitted with a short-range laser rangefinder to act as an altimeter the equipment on the aircraft could cause a hazard to aviation safety therefore an assessment is required."


  • Jethro, is that in there?  I didn't see that one.  Yes, it's another stinker.

    Is there no consideration for "eye safe" lasers?  I have a Lidar on one of mine.  It's eye safe rated.  You can't see the beam, even in a dark room.  

    This would also preclude use of scanning lasers which is a very important application.

    Again, seems like a bit of an unreasonable regulation.

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