May 31, 2019

New rules for flying drones in Canada: 8 things to know

The operation of drones, also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs), is increasing at an incredible pace, both recreationally and commercially. As new applications for drones  play an important role in the daily lives of Canadians, the aviation and drones industries must collaborate to ensure safety in the skies and on the ground.

If you own a drone, or are looking to buy one, it’s important to understand the new Transport Canada rules that will come into effect June 1, 2019. Announced by the Minister of Transport on January 9, 2019 the rules apply to all drone pilots, whether you fly recreationally, commercially or for research. In this blog we’re highlighting 8 things you should know about the new Transport Canada regulations – but of course you should also visit the Transport Canada “Drone Safety” page for more information and details.

1. Drones must be registered and marked.

Example of drone marking.

You’re now required to register your drone through the Transport Canada drone management portal. Once registered, you’ll receive a unique registration number that will need to be clearly marked on your drone before flying it. This comes with a couple of benefits; lost drones can now be traced back to their owners and recall notices can be sent to you.

2. You’ll need a drone pilot certificate to fly.

Drone pilot certificate

Note: Flying in controlled airspace requires authorization from NAV CANADA, or the Department of National Defence (DND) in DND-controlled airspace. Instructions on how to obtain NAV CANADA authorization can be found on our RPAS webpage.

As a drone pilot, you’re sharing the skies with other aircraft, and with that comes significant responsibility to ensure the safety of others. Before you fly, it’s critical that you understand the rules and obtain a drone pilot certificate to operate drones between 250 grams and 25 kilograms. Pilots of micro drones (under 250 grams) do not require certificates and registration but must fly in a way that does not endanger the safety of other aircraft or people. Pilots of drones over 25 kilograms need to obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate from Transport Canada before flying.

3. The new regulations introduce two certification categories of drone operations: basic and advanced certification.

The weight of the drone, distance from bystanders, and airspace access rules define these two categories that apply to both commercial and recreational pilots.

Rules for basic operations apply to pilots operating drones in uncontrolled airspace and more than 30 metres horizontally from bystanders.

Rules for advanced operations apply to pilots who want to fly over bystanders or within 30 metres horizontally from bystanders. They also apply to pilots wanting to fly in controlled airspace requiring airspace access authorization from NAV CANADA, and the Department of National Defence (DND) in DND-controlled airspace. Pilots wanting to fly advanced operations will also need to pass a flight review.

4. You only need a ‘Special Flight Operations Certificate’ if you need to fly outside the rules for basic or advanced operations.

On June 1, 2019, getting a Special Flight Operations Certificate will no longer be a prerequisite for commercial operations. A certificate is only needed for flying drones outside the rules for basic or advanced operations, drones that weigh more than 25 kilograms, or if you are not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident.

5. If you want to fly in controlled airspace, you need to request access authorization from NAV CANADA or DND.

It’s important to note that pilots should never operate a remotely piloted aircraft near an aerodrome that is listed in the Canada Flight Supplement or the Canada Water Aerodrome Supplement in a way that could interfere with aircraft. Pilots who are looking to fly within controlled airspace must receive authorization before doing so. Instructions on how to obtain NAV CANADA authorization can be found on our RPAS webpage. Be prepared to provide logistical details about your flight.

6. There are new age restrictions to operating drones.

Transport Canada has introduced age restrictions for drone operators. The minimum age for basic operations is 14 years old, and 16 years old for advanced operations. Younger pilots may fly when supervised by a drone pilot with the proper registrations and certifications. There is no age minimum for micro-drones however.

7. Keep your drones in sight and out of harms way.

Simply put, stay away from all aircraft! Drones must always stay below an altitude of 122 metres (400ft) above ground level, out of controlled airspace (unless you obtain permission), and within your line-of-sight always. Pilots must be fit to operate – don’t fly your drone if you’re tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If flying at night, drones must be equipped with proper lighting. Also, you must always avoid flying over public events, over emergency security perimeters and outside of Canadian airspace.

8. There are serious penalties.

Public safety should be taken very seriously when operating your drone. The new rules are enforced by Transport Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Putting aircraft and people at risk can result in fines of up to $25,000 and jail time. As well, interfering with an aircraft or airport operations is already a serious offence under Canada’s Criminal Code.


For more detailed information about drone safety, drone laws, drone registration, drone pilot certification, where and where not to fly, and reporting a drone incident, visit the Transport Canada Drone Safety website.


One Comment

Nice article! I would also add the requirement to stay away from airports (is it a 9 km radius?). This page only mentions generally keeping out of “controlled airspace” and under 400 feet (unless special permission is obtained), but since most airports in Canada are uncontrolled, I would have added the no-fly zone radius. While I assume this detail is in the training, let’s face it, many will read this page, sure, but not actually get the training. Thanks for this write-up!


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