Interim Canadian drone rules launched
By Richard Stobbe
As the recreational and commercial use of drones expands, the calls for a regulatory framework have grown louder. The Canadian federal government has, until last week, taken the simple approach of prohibiting the use of UAVs: “No person shall operate an unmanned air vehicle in flight except in accordance with a special flight operations certificate or an air operator certificate.” Essentially, any commercial use of drones or use of drones that weigh more than 35 kg had to be registered with a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) through Transport Canada.
So far, the system of regulatory control was simplistic but not exactly scaleable, considering the explosive growth in this area.
Last week, as part of its effort to bring order to the chaos, the Canadian federal government released its Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft under the Canadian Aviation Regulations which fall under the Aeronautics Act.
Now, if you fly your drone for recreational purposes and it weighs between 250 g and 35 kg, you don’t need an SFOC from Transport Canada to fly. But wait… there’s more!
This interim order essentially classifies small recreational drones as “model aircraft”, keeps the distinction for “unmanned air vehicles”, and adds some regulatory details. The old regulations took a broad brush approach to the relatively small population of model aircraft hobbyists (hey guys… don’t fly into a cloud or in a manner that is hazardous to aviation safety). By contrast, the new rules provide a more objective set of criteria. Now, a person must not operate a recreational drone or model aircraft:
- at an altitude greater than 300 feet AGL;
- at a lateral distance of less than 250 feet (75m) from buildings, structures, vehicles, vessels, animals and the public;
- within 9 km of an aerodrome;
- unless it is operated within VLOS (visual line-of-sight) at all times during the flight;
- at a lateral distance of more than 1640 feet (500 m) from the person's location;
- within controlled airspace;
- within restricted airspace;
- over or within a forest fire area, or any area that is located within 9 km of a forest fire area;
- over or within the security perimeter of a police or first responder emergency operation site;
- over or within an open-air assembly of persons;
- at night;
- in cloud;
- while operating another drone or model aircraft;
- unless the name, address and telephone number of the owner is clearly made visible on the aircraft.
Sigh… one can’t help a certain nostalgia for any regulation that still uses the word “aerodrome”. Those are just some of the new drone rules. Drones used for commercial or research purposes still require an SFOC.
For breach of the rules applying to recreational use, there are fines of between $3,000 and $15,000.
For our readers in Calgary, check out Taking Off: Drone Law in Canada where our Emerging Technologies Group presents an overview of the legal landscape surrounding drone use and discusses what you need to know to use drones in your business. The seminar will cover topics including:
- Discussion of the current regulatory approach at the federal, provincial and municipal level
- Potential privacy, contract and insurance issues
- Drone-related liability
- Patent/intellectual property protection
Additional Reading: The Wild West: Drone Laws And Privacy In Canada
Calgary – 07:00 MT