Canada set to launch new drone regulations in June

By Patrick C. Miller | January 14, 2019

Canada’s plan to implement new, simplified drone regulations in June this year have met with mixed reaction from unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators.

Marc Garneau, Canada’s minister of transport, last week announced the new rules, which will apply to all those flying drones weighing between .55 pounds and 55 pounds and operating within visual line of sight for commercial, recreational and research purposes. The rules will be enforced by Transport Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

The CBC reported on a UAS videographer in Thunder Bay, Ontario, who claimed the new rules would force him to upgrade his drone at a cost of between $30,000 and $40,000 to legally fly in the city. Alan Auld, owner of Imagine Films, told CBC it’s an expense he and other small UAS business can’t afford. "It makes it difficult for a guy like me because it is going to put me out of business, " Auld said in the CBC article.

However, Canada’s Unmanned Aerial System Centre of Excellence (UAS CE) and Drone Delivery Canada—a UAS software and hardware technology company—both offered positive responses to the new drone regulations.

Marc Moffatt, UAS CE’s general director, said, “These rules will help us raise awareness about the good practices for drones, especially for recreational users in order to ensure a safe integration of this technology in our civil airspace. On top of setting up rules to be followed, we must ensure that the commercial operators possess the proper skills.”

“The newly announced regulations are another step forward in the evolution of the industry,” said Mark Wuennenberg, vice president of regulatory affairs for Drone Delivery Canada. “Ultimately, they will allow more flexibility in our current operations, while indirectly supporting DDC’s ability to accelerate towards the commercialization of its drone delivery services in Canada.”

The rules introduce basic and advanced categories of drone operations, based on distance from bystanders and on airspace rules. Under each category, UAS pilots are required to register their drones and mark them with a registration number. They must also pass an online exam for a pilot certificate and stay away from air traffic.

According to Transport Canada, the new regulations are the result of consultation with the Canadian public and the UAS industry. The agency said only those pilots who fly a drone outside the rules for basic or advanced operations must apply for a special flight operations certificate before they fly.

Transport Canada noted the regulations provide serious penalties for those who break the rules. Individuals and corporations can face fines or jail time for putting aircraft and people at risk; flying without a drone pilot certificate; or flying unmarked or unregistered drones.

The rules establish that UAS pilots must be at least 14 years old for basic operations and 16 for advanced operations—unless supervised by someone with proper certification—and they must stay below 400 feet above ground level.

Until the new rules go into effect June 1, recreational drone pilots must follow the rules outlined in the Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft. Those flying for commercial or research purposes must follow the condition in their special flight operations certificate.