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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  • After having been extremely excited for this news from Transport Canada, and after having gone through the new regulations with a fine tooth comb, they are actually quite disappointing.

    Particularly the 9km away from 'built-up' areas rule. 

    So ultimately what they have done is eliminate the applications for the SFOC for operating in remote areas. However, I suspect that the majority of SFOC applications are stemming from operators who wish to use their UAVs in built-up areas. 

    Am I missing something here?

  • That's the thing though, these regulations say nothing for recreational use.  You can legally fly a 1/4 scale plane over Toronto if you wanted to, and not be breaking any laws.  Well, if you had an accident, maybe you could get charged with something generic like "reckless endangerment".  But there's nothing anybody could do to stop you from flying before the crash.

    And that's what I take really strong exception to.  That commercial use is so much more regulated than recreational use.  It just doesn't make sense.

    You know how many Phantoms will be unwrapped on Christmas morning, and then immediately flown in a back yard by somebody who'd never flown before?  1000's.  

    Yet I could not use the exact same machine to take aerial photos of the exact same house for sale, in a controlled environment.  It makes absolutely no sense.

  • Developer

    Notice I wrote with recreational usage in mind, and said flying over built-up areas, not near them. I totally agree 9km does not make much sense, and would make most RC fields illegal also. I am much more worried about the mind set of the new UAV pilots. Suddenly with the introduction of quads and autopilots helping them to fly, there seems to be a new generation of pilots who seem to think it's ok to fly pretty much anywhere they fancy.

    When it comes to commercial usage I'm two-minded. In general I want as few regulations as possible. But considering human nature especially when money is involved, my practical side tells me a free for all would quickly turn into a disaster. There will always be someone willing to do really, really stupid and unsafe things for a little money. So there has to be some balance.

  • No John, not sensible at all.

    My local RC club field is about 1 km from the center of town, and only about 500m from the first group of buildings.  Despite this, as you say, it's been operating safely for a long time.

    Yet, if I fly UAV's from that field commercially, I don't meet the exemptions, which means I must apply for an SFOC.  That means I have to fill out a complicated form which just got WAY more complicated with the new rules, and wait 20 days.  For each flight.

    IMO, this whole thing has turned into a disaster.  It was supposed to make things better, when in fact it made them a whole lot worse.

  • Developer

    Looks like a set of well thought out and sensible set of regulations.

    I agree 9km seems a bit overzealous, but any sane experienced RC model pilot would not consider flying over a built-up area. Just like the same pilot would never ever fly over a crowd. In fact he would most likely be thrown out of the local RC club, if he did. Following these obvious self imposed rules, the RC community as a whole has been staying "under the radar" and had very few accidents for decades.

    I see no reason why recreational UAV should behave any different. If the place you fly isn't well suited for dealing with a crash, it's not good for any flying either.

  • Thanks Bertrand and George - that makes things clearer re: the training requirements.  I wonder if someone will offer a distance learning program in short order that would fullfill this need...

    "Such training could be provided by an existing flight training facility (manned or unmanned) or could be a self-administered training program."

  • Built-up areas defined:

    "The pilot operating under this exemption shall only operate a UAV at least five (5) nautical miles
    away from a built-up area.

         ...Built-up areas are considered areas with groups of buildings or dwellings including anything from small
    hamlets to major cities. Anything larger than a farmstead should be considered a built-up area."

    (from my previous link)


  • For the 2 - 25kg exemption:

    "Pilot Training Conditions

    1. The pilot operating a UAV system under this exemption shall have successfully completed a pilot ground school program that provides instruction on the following subject areas:
      1. airspace classification and structure;
      2. meteorological and NOTAM reporting services;
      3. interpretation of aeronautical charts and the Canada Flight Supplement; and
      4. applicable content of the Canadian Aviation Regulations;
    2. The pilot conducting operations under this exemption shall be appropriately trained on the UAV system and qualified for the area and type of operation as referred to in Transport Canada guidance material."

    (from within Bertrand's link).


  • Time for an Executive E-mail Carpet Bomb campaign on the US FAA BEFORE they bork an entire industry.

  • Euan,

    Manned aircraft have the transponders, automatically activated (by sudden de-celleration?) in event of crash, which in turn activates the whole search-and-rescue apparatus. I guess they don't want to be swamped with SAR responses on behalf of crashed Phantoms and such.


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