Summary of new drone regulation

Last July, Transport Canada published the outline of what could be the new regulation regarding the use of UAVs operated within visual range in Canada. The new regulation framework is based on the weight of the aircraft and the complexity of the operation instead of the type of operation (recreational or not).

One of the main changes is about the SFOC applications. The majority of future operations will not require this procedure anymore. Also, Transport Canada specifies certain cases of use where UAVs are exempted of this new regulation, such as flying indoor.

Model Aircrafts

The terms “model aircraft” and “unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)” will be replaced by the terms “unmanned aircraft (UA)”, defining only the aerial vehicle, and “unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which includes the aircraft and all elements mandatory during flight operations. As mentioned above, there will not be any difference between recreational or commercial use of an unmanned aircraft. However, Transport Canada plans to exempt hobbyist from the new regulation if they are flying within rules of a recognized model aircraft associations. This exemption aims to prevent any harm to those associations which have always maintained a very good safety record. At the time of writing this article, the MAAC is the only organization recognized by Transport Canada.

Aircrafts Weighing 250 Grams or Less

The aircraft weighing 250 g or less will be classified as “Micro UAS” and will be exempted of the new regulation. No particular rule will apply for this category.

Aircrafts Weighing more than 250 Grams to 1 Kg

The category “very small unmanned aircraft” will be assigned to aircrafts weighing more than 250 grams without exceeding 1 kg. These aircrafts will be able to operate without SFOC under certain conditions, for example:

  • The pilot shall successfully pass a written Transport Canada examination;
  • Flights will be authorized only in class G airspace at a maximum altitude of 300 feet above ground;
  • Night flights will be prohibited;
  • The aircraft will not be able to fly to more than one quarter of a nautical mile from the pilot;
  • It will be possible to fly within 100 feet of a gathering of people in certain cases.

Small Unmanned Aircrafts

The above mentioned category will be created for the aircrafts weighing more than 1 kg without exceeding 25 kg. The applicable rules will be divided in two subcategories, limited and complex,  both defined by the level of risk of the operation.

The key factors of the level of risk assessment is the distance of the control station or the aircraft to the nearest built-up area and aerodrome. For example, a flight occurring more than half a nautical mile from a built-up area and more than three nautical miles of an aerodrome in class G airspace will be considered as a limited operation. If the flight is conducted closer to a built up area or an aerodrome, the rules of a complex operation will apply.

The main difference of the complex subcategory over the limited  subcategory is in the former, the pilot must have a small unmanned aircraft pilot permit instead of simply having to pass a written examination. Moreover, any aircraft bought after December 15th, 2017, used in that subcategory  will have to comply with a design standard recognized by Transport Canada, for example, the ASTM F2910-14 standard.

Several other conditions will have to be fulfilled for complex operations but with the advantage of granting the use of UA inside built-up areas and near aerodromes. It will even be possible, in certain cases, to fly over a crowd if all the security requirements are met.

UAS regulations table


With this new regulation, most of UA operations will not be subjected to an SFOC. Only flights beyond the visual line of sight or those which cannot respect the restrictions of their category will require a special flight operations certificate.


The exact date at which this new regulation will come into effect will be specified in the Canada Gazette II, published next winter. By then, Transport Canada will collect recommendations of industry stakeholders on this regulatory proposal. All the details of this new regulation are available on the site of the Canada Gazette.

It is important to note that until the publication of the Canada Gazette II, the current rules and SFOC application requirements still apply.

Source: Canada Gazette