New regulation to fly drones in Canada

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drone-3198324_1920On january 9th 2019, the Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau announced the publication of the new regulations for remotely piloted aircraft systerms (RPAS), commonly known as drones. This new part (IX) of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) will reduce the administrative burdens on businesses caused by the requirement of the Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC). In this new regulatory framework, there will not be any differences between commercial and recreational drones. There will also be several changes regarding registration, pilot qualifications and flight rules.

Registration

All RPAS weighing more than 250 g to 25 kg will need to be registred with Transport Canada as per article 901.02. The registration number will need to be clearly visible on the aircraft. The registration is currently available online on Transport Canada’s website and costs $5 per aircraft. This new rule eliminates the requirement to apply the personal information of the owner on the drone, considered to be worrisome for privacy.

Flight rules

With the new regulations, there will be two types of operations, basic operations or advanced operations.

Basic operations will include flights:

  • Outside of controlled airspace;
  • At a distance of 100 feet (30 m) or more, measured horizontally, from a person not involved in the operation; and,
  • At a distance greater than 3 nautical miles from an airport or 1 nautical mile from an heliport.

Advanced operations will include flights:

  • Inside controlled airspace;
  • At a distance of less than 100 feet (30 m), measured horizontally, from a person not involved in the operation; and,
  • Within 3 nautical miles from an airport, or within 1 nautical mile from an heliport.

For advanced operations, the RPAS will need to be declared compliant to the new standards by the manufacturer for specific types of operations.

Here are the main modifications regarding general operations and flight rules:

  • The pilot or a visual observer in direct communication with the pilot must maintain visual line-of-sight with the drone. This requirements will permit the use of first person view devices (FPV) when a visual observer is present. This rule also open the door to beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) flights if it is conducted under the conditions of an SFOC. The standards for BVLOS flights have not yet been published.
  • The maximum altitude remains at 400 feet above ground, but this altitude can be increased to 100 feet above any building or structure, if the aircraft is being operated at a distance of less than 200 feet, measured horizontally, from the building or structure. This change will greatly facilitate high structure inspections. Furthermore, the altitude can also be increased if the flight is conducted in controlled airspace with the authorization of the air traffic services provider.
  • The pilots will no longer have to subscribe to a liability insurance. Nonetheless, Transport Canada strongly suggest that RPAS pilots have an insurance because they will be held accountable for incidents occuring during flight operations.
  • No specific minimum weather conditions are published for RPAS. The only conditions are that the weather permits the flight in accordance to the manufactuer’s instructions and that the aircraft can be maintained within visual line-of-sight.
  • Night flights will be permitted if the drone is equipped with the necessary position lights.

Pilot Qualifications

The new regulatory framework provides two types of pilot certificates for RPAS operations within visual line-of-sight. One for basic operations and one for advanced operations.

A pilot which desire to operate a drone for basic operations will need to:

  • Be at least 14 years of age;
  • Successfully complete the examination “Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems — Basic Operations”; and,
  • Complete a recurrent training activity every 24 months.

One the other side, a pilot wanting to fly advanced operations will need to:

  • Be at least 16 years of age;
  • Successfully complete the examination “Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems — Advanced Operations”;
  • Successfully complete a flight review in accordance with section 921.02; and,
  • Complete a recurrent training activity every 24 months.

A pilot with a pilot certificate for advanced operations will also be able to perform basic operations.

Written exams will be conducted online on Transport Canada’s website and cost $10 each. The pilot certificate for advanced operations will cost $25.

The exams are based on the last revision of the TP15263 available here.

Conclusion

In summary, these modifications on the regulatory framework regarding drone operations will greatly reduce the administrative burdens on operators by removing the need to apply for an SFOC when conducting flights near large urban centers or inside built-up areas. An SFOC will only be required when the operation is not covered by the new rules. These changes to the CARs will greatly ease the development of RPAS in professional and recreational uses.

Thses new regulations will come into force on June 1st 2019, but it is already possible to register drones and complete the written exams for the pilot cetificates on Transport Canada’s website. Until June 1st, the current regulations, including the need of an SFOC, the exemptions and the interim order for recreational drones are still in force.