I put together an overview of what we found when looking into the legalities of UAV use in Canada.  Our hope is that as a community we can have a rough outline for each of the countries that the members are from.

Notes: I'm not a professional I've just collated what I found.  Please let me know of any mistakes or changes.

Q: Are UAVs legal in the Canada?

A: Unmanned Aerial vehicles are permitted to fly in Canada when they meet "Model aircraft" conditions set out in the Canadian Aviation Regulations or the operator has a Special Flight Operations Certificate(SFOC).

Q: What makes a UAV a model aircraft in the eyes of Transport Canada(TC)?

A: "Model aircraft" means an aircraft, the total weight of which does not exceed 35 kg (77.2 pounds), that is mechanically driven or launched into flight for recreational purposes.  By definition a UAV is no longer a model aircraft when:
- Owned by a company not an individual.
-Used for profit.


Q: I just put a Camera on my model plane/copter and started making money selling the photos/videos, is this allowed?

A: As described by TC as soon as you make money or become contracted to use you model aircraft it no-longer qualifies as a model aircraft.  Your model aircraft is now a UAV and requires a Special Flight Operations Certificate(SFOC) to fly.

Q: I’m using my UAV for profit or it’s vital to the success of my business, what do I need to know?

A: You need a Special Flight Operations Certificate(SFOC) every time your UAV is in Canadian Airspace,  Yes even testing and development outdoors requires an SFOC.  Fear not as obtaining an SFOC is common place in Canada, and as of May 17th 2012 it’s free.  This is because the law strictly prohibits UAVs without these certificates.

602.41 No person shall operate an unmanned air vehicle in flight except in accordance with a special flight operations certificate or an air operator certificate.

Q: How do I get an SFOC?

A: The procedure for obtaining an SFOC is listed here.  The most important in preparing your SFOC application is that you prove to Transport Canada that you will not be putting the public in danger nor will you be disrupting air traffic.

- Please see the TC staff guideline, PDF, when creating your submission, thank you goes to Bertrand Duchiron for finding this.

Q: What does it cost to applying for an SFOC?

A: For UAVs there is NO COST involved in applying for and obtaining an SFOC. As of May 17th 2012.  However there is a prerequisite of liability insurance, the TC staff mentioned this however I could not locate this.

Q: Do I need to get a different SFOC for every day that I fly?

A: No! As it was explained by Transport Canada you can apply for to get an SFOC that indicates a range of dates and times. 

Q: How big of an area can I apply for in my SFOC?

A: As mentioned above the primary purpose of an SFOC is to ensure the safety of the public and air traffic.  Your SFOC application will be individually reviewed by Transport Canada staff specific to the region.  As long as you follow outline all the prerequisites outlined here

Q: Can you give us some of the examples SFOC applications provided by TC?

A: The example was of an established RC pilot contracted to take an aerial photo of a farmer’s field every Friday during the growing season.  His application would look something like:
- Between May 18th to September 28th 2012, Every Friday between 9am and 11pm.  
            - Alternative date for flight will be the Friday between 4pm and 6pm.
            - Alternative date for flight will be the next Saturday between 8am and 6pm.
- A note from the local RM indicating they have no objection to the flights.
- A description of his craft.
- A note from the farmer indicating that there will be no people or equipment on his field during any of the operational times (Security).
- An aerial/satellite photo for the area of operations.
- On this photo/map he will indicate takeoff and landing zones. Also noting any obstacles between the takeoff and landing zones.
- On this photo/map he will indicate the boundaries of where he will be operating.
- He will then indicate the projected flight path will photos will be taken.

This isn’t all of the points outlined here.  Please note that all these points need to be completed and submitted. 

Each SFOC is individually reviewed.  It was mentioned that TC will work with you, within reason, if your application is missing certain points.  They may also request a demonstration of you and/or your crafts abilities.

Q: I plan to take photos of sports games to promote the team/field/league, what do I need to know?

A: TC advised that a 100 foot horizontal buffer between a crowd and itself.

Q: What do I need to know about operating in semi populated to populated areas?

A: We were advised that you must always have a safe place to land your UAV upon mechanical/operational failure.  This specific example was of a multi-rotor craft taking photos of a sporting event, if the craft looses power it will fall like a dart, even if the receiver/controller has redundant power.  This is why there’s the 100ft rule for crowds.  From here you must prove that if you lose power you have a bailout plan.  The next example was of an RC plane doing a highway survey. If power was lost the operator could attempt to land the craft in a ditch. (Outlined in the operational presentation)

Q: I’m using my craft for recreational use.  What kind of restrictions are in place for non-commercial, recreational crafts?

A: The letter of the law states: (We make no interpretations of this)

602.45 No person shall fly a model aircraft or a kite or launch a model rocket or a rocket of a type used in a fireworks display into cloud or in a manner that is or is likely to be hazardous to aviation safety.

Q: What about universities and other students. Are there any exemptions for them?

A: As previously mentioned any craft is considered a UAV when used for non-recreational activity.  The university, students, project lead, will need to submit an application for an SFOC for your use.  You may want to start small, say a small safe area with a low altitude just for testing and training for specific days for 6 weeks.  Then when ready to expand you’ve already proved the operation is safe, even if it’s only 2 weeks into the first SFOC.

Q: What if I break the rules?

A: Well, for starters, we don't want to hear about it here!  Section 602.41 as a designated provision, has an individual penalty in the amount of $5,000.00 and a corporation penalty of $25,000.00.

Q: Okay, I'm obeying all the rules. Are there any other guidelines for safe and responsible “Model Aircraft” operations?

A: Yes. In the USA the RCAPA (the RC aerial photography association) has some excellent guidelines that are a great place to start.  Common Sense too.

Q: Where did you get all the information?

A: I compile all this information from:




I also contacted the regional Transport Canada office and was transferred the team in charge of SFOC applications.  Some of what we discussed was added to this FAQ. 

We found that in 2007 there was Work Group formed:
This document represents the Final Report of the Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) Working Group, established to develop a regulatory framework for the operation of unmanned air vehicles with respect to terms and definitions, aircraft registration and marking, flight crew and maintainer licensing, maintenance, airworthiness and continuing airworthiness, operational flight rules and operational approval. The Unmanned Air Vehicle Working Group was a joint government and industry initiative, convened by Transport Canada, General Aviation in December 2006 to address the increasing volume and complexity of applications for unmanned air vehicle Special Flight Operations Certificates (SFOCs).



There appears to be a section for UAV pilot licensing.  However none of this was mentioned by the TC rep.

Private communities/sites:
Canadian Centrefor Unmanned Vehicle Systems



Views: 39996

Comment by Terence C. Gannon on May 17, 2012 at 10:56pm

Robert -- this is an excellent post, thank you for taking the time and making the effort to put it together.  Cheers...TCG

Comment by Bertrand Duchiron on May 18, 2012 at 2:02am

Read this document before you apply for an SFOC , it's a guideline for TC SFOC reviewer :


For those with a MAAC membership, there is a UAV comittee at the MAAC and they work closely with TC.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on May 18, 2012 at 4:45am

Excellent!  This needs to be stickied somewhere!

Comment by Martin on May 18, 2012 at 6:20am

I may be wrong but once you have your first SFOC. You will have to have it for every flight with that aircraft.

Comment by Robert Sinclair on May 18, 2012 at 6:52am

Martin, I can't say that I know this exactly 100% one way or another.  If that's the cause that's great.  When I spoke with the Transport Canada guy he made it sound like different locations required different SFOCs.  If i go through the process though I will be sure to put something else together.

Also thanks to Chris A. for sticking this in the "Are UAV's legal" post.

Great find Bertran, I added it to the Post

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on May 18, 2012 at 7:24am

I would hope that we could establish some sort of "classification" of location for the SFOC, rather than an actual geographic reason.  For example, I'm interested in this for wilderness photography.  I'd hope to be about to get an SFOC that would clear me for operation in any remote area, perhaps some minimum distance from an airport, etc. If I had to get a new SFOC for every different location, that would be unfortunate.

And when I say "remote" I mean it.

Comment by Ellison Chan on May 18, 2012 at 10:05am

Yes, you need an SFOC for everytime you fly commercially.  The SFOC is only good for the location that you applied for.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on May 18, 2012 at 10:08am

That's a big bummer.  I wonder if you can apply for Location: Northern Quebec and Ontario.  ?

Comment by Bertrand Duchiron on May 18, 2012 at 12:05pm

There is only one team who have a Canadian wide SFOC is a federal arson investigation team using a quadcopter.

@ R Lefebvre :

1- There will never be location where you can have better chance to get a SFOC, to get a SFOC it depends on the location but much more on the team , the UAV system , the time of the year.

2- You can apply only at a provincial level, if you want to fly in Quebec and Ontario you need 2 SFOC, they are reviewed by local TC guy.

For the team who want to apply, it's better if you have your MAAC Wings and a pilot licence (or at least the ground school).

Comment by Grips on May 19, 2012 at 1:32pm

The other gigantic elephant in the room here is that you require at least 1,000,000 of commercial general liability insurance. FINDING an insurer is probably the largest hurdle, which I still have not overcome as of yet. I contacted a SFOC heli operator in Ontario and he did not want to tell me his insurer as he thought I would be flying my hexacopter to Ontario to compete with him. MAAC does not cover you for any commercial activity and should really be seen as useless in this situation. Its only something that you can add on a resume to say that your not a complete sketch bag.


You need to be a member of DIY Drones to add comments!

Join DIY Drones


Season Two of the Trust Time Trial (T3) Contest 
A list of all T3 contests is here. The current round, the Vertical Horizontal one, is here

© 2020   Created by Chris Anderson.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service