As we have we done in the past, sometimes it can be really interesting to look at the other countries rules and compare them to ours and see what that might mean for us. Recently, Canada issued new rules for recreational drone flyers, and they’re going to make it tougher for many. These rules are more restrictive than what we’ve seen. They completely rewrite some things and significantly limit the ability of recreational pilots in Canada to fly their drones.
The New Rules
One big change is it they’ve significantly wide in the category of drones that these rules apply to. In the US, our small uas rules go from .55 pounds up to 55 pounds. Under these new rules they go from 250 grams up to 35 kilograms. In case for a little bit weak on your metric system conversions, like me, that starts at the same bottom of .55 pounds but goes all the way up to seventy seven pounds. In some respects that’s good. That means that there are fewer drones that need to get categorized in a larger category.
The operational rules, however, are a lot more restrictive than what we’re used to in the United States. Of course, as you might imagine this is causing a bit of an uproar. In many respects they made it almost impossible for someone to recreationally fly a drone in a city or large town. There might be some large parks where they can fly but they’re going to be very limited in what they can do. It’s unfortunate to see.
Be Close to the aircraft
Under these new rules the pilot has to be within 500 metres of the drone. Now that sounds bad, or could, but it’s really not all that bad. For us and United States that means you have to be within about five hundred yards or five football fields of your drone. Many of us have flown beyond that distance, but it is hard to maintain line of sight beyond that.
You can’t go higher than 90 meters above the ground. That’s a bit more restricted than what we’ve become used to. Unlike our 400 feet, that’s about a hundred feet less. Probably not horrible for recreational use, and even for many commercial uses that would be okay. One problem is that it doesn’t seem to give an option for distance above an obstacle and so you’re limited by ground-level all the time. Of course if you’re operating recreationally, you’re not supposed to be taking many pictures of buildings or things like that but there are cases where you might be able to as a recreational pilot. Unless it’s a short building, this is going to limit your options in doing that.
Distance from Airport
You are also limited so they have to be at least nine kilometers away from any airport or seaplane base. It doesn’t seem to allow any opportunity for permission to be able to operate closer. For many of us in the US that would make it almost impossible for us to fly and a lot of areas. For example I almost can’t go anywhere that I’m not within five miles of something. One of the benefits of getting my remote pilot license what’s that I didn’t need permission from every grass strip, helipad, backyard field in my area. It was actually less restrictive for me. This would be very difficult and will make it almost impossible for me to fly in my area if I wasn’t doing it under 1:07. I suspect it will be parts of Canada that are similar. Of course, just like the us there a lot of places in Canada that that wouldn’t be a big deal
Now a Distance From Stuff Limit
Lastly, you can’t fly closer than 75 metres from people, buildings, vehicles or animals. For the less educated of us that’s about 250 feet. This is probably one of the more restrictive ones. It makes it almost impossible to fly in a park or a public area because there’s going to be one of these things near there. Of course, on second thought, this is probably why they didn’t include any opportunities for flying over buildings. You can’t. This is going to make it difficult to fly in many cities are larger towns.
Rules We Are Used To
Some of the other roles are what were used to. You still can’t fly at night or in the clouds, which isn’t a surprise. They explicitly prevent you from interfering with police or First Responders, which many towns and states in the US have done as well. They did put a 9km restriction around a forest fire as well . Sadly, that has been an on-going problem in many places with drones interfering with aerial firefighting operations, in some cases forcing them to be grounded altogether. That’s probably a good Rule and makes a lot of sense. We shouldn’t be doing it anyway.
Oh, one last one that’s a similar to but a little bit different for our registration requirement in the US. You have to have your name address and telephone number clearly marked on your drone. It’s a bit like the registration requirement we see here but a little bit more explicit. No, a lot more explicit. Some good to come out of that, it makes it a whole lot easier for someone to call you if your drone is lost from a fly away or something.
What happens if I break these rules?
Why are they making these changes?
Unfortunately, when we don’t follow the rules, the rules are going to get worse. Most of us to follow the rules and unfortunately all of us are going to punish for those that don’t. According the Transport Canada minister (who happens to be a former astronaut) the number of incidents in cases involving drones that they’ve had to deal with has tripled, more than tripled, from 2014 to 2016. This is a reaction to that. They’re trying to address those issues And cut down on the number of incidents and problems. They have taken a bit of a hard line on the threat. Others have said that the 250 gram weight (or 0.55 pounds) is outdated and there should be closer to a pound, which is 2.2 kilograms.
There are some exceptions to these rules, but check carefully before you fly using any rules other than these. According to the Transport Canadar site members of the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC) who operate at MAAC sanctioned fields or events are not subject to these rules. It’s nice to have a carve out, but it seems odd that the government is permitting exceptions for members of a private organization, but let’s take what we can get, right?
You also have an option to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC). There’s more information on that here. This approval from Transport Canada can allow you to fly under different rules. Just like with any government approval process…there is a process and it can take some time. In fact, that’s a big criticism of these rules – some feel that the restrictions will drive some recreational pilots to apply for an SFOC and that could further delay the process for commercial approvals.
Transport Canada has a pretty good website with a bunch of information on it. It’s worth checking out. They did a nice job of making it readable and easy to navigate. Here are some of the resources you can find on there:
- A site describing the rule itself. Here’s where you’ll find all the layman information on the rules.
- A Nifty, Easy to Read Infographic – They did a nice job on this and if you’re going flying in Canada (recreationally) it might be worth printing out.
- The Rule Itself – All the websites, blog posts and infographics are great. Make sure that you read and understand the rules themselves before you fly. These are what will actually get you into trouble (or not.)
- Getting Permission to Fly – You can find out more about the SFOC process on this page.
As always we’ll keep you updated and let you know what changes and what’s happening. It sounds like this isn’t the end. Their site says more changes are coming. There’s a lot of pushback to these rule changes, but they seem to be final for now. Just like we see in the US most countries are solely maturing and adopting as the world changes. Hopefully that will make things less restrictive in most cases, but as we see here that’s not always going to be the case. Fly safe!