Flying A Drone For Fun In Canada

As of March 16th 2017, it officially became illegal to operate your drone in various hazardous locations without proper authorization from Transport Canada.  On June 24th 2017, another volley of regulations were updated in the Interim Order No. 8 - Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft.  You require an SFOC in most cases if you want to fly your drone in the city.  Here is a summary of some of the new rules for recreational drone users in Canada.

The DJI Inspire 1 hovers in a field at the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg during the Crohn's and Colitis Canada Gutsy Walk 2017.

The DJI Inspire 1 hovers in a field at the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg during the Crohn's and Colitis Canada Gutsy Walk 2017.

"Model Aircraft - an aircraft, including unmanned aircraft (drones) with a total weight not exceeding 35 kg which is used for recreational purposes."

If you fly your drone and it weighs more than 250 grams (and up to 35 kg) you will need to follow these rules:

  • Do not fly higher than 90 m above ground level (AGL).  That is around 300 ft.  Remember that your flight software tracks everything you do (in many cases) and if you are flying higher than you're supposed to, it can easily be found out by the authorities.
  • Do not fly closer than 75 meters (around 250 ft) from buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals, people/crowds, etc.  
  • Do not fly closer than 5.5 km (approximately 3 nautical miles) from the centre of an aerodrome (any airport, except a heliport).
  • Do not fly closer than 1.8 km (approximately 1 nautical mile) from a heliport
  • Do not fly within controlled or restricted airspace.  How can you tell if it is controlled or restricted airspace? Try using the UAV Site Selection Tool from the National Research Council of Canada.  It is a good tool to help you quickly see which areas are off-limits.
  • Do not fly within 9 km of a forest fire
  • Do not fly over or within the security perimeter of a police or first responder emergency operation site.  The last thing anyone needs is ANOTHER emergency to deal with!
  • Do not fly at night or in clouds.  I saw a drone almost hit the Winnipeg Police Air 1 helicopter a few weeks ago at about 11:30 at night.  The helicopter had to swerve to avoid hitting the faint green and red flashing lights floating in the air.  Standard drones don't have very good lighting.  It is easy to lose sight of your drone, and the video on your telemetry device (phone or table) is completely useless...
  • Do not fly if you can't keep the drone in sight at all times.  How far can you see a DJI Phantom?  You can see a DJI Phantom from about half a mile at the MOST.  It often disappears into the backdrop and is difficult to see even at that distance so you definitely shouldn't push it (despite the fact that the flight controller (ground station) can control the system from up to 3 miles away!)
  • Do not fly if you are not within 500 m from your drone.  This one connects with the last one...
  • Do not fly your drone if your name, address, and telephone number are not clearly marked on your drone.  This is also a way to ensure that IF you have a flyaway, you have a chance of getting your multi-thousand dollar equipment back!  Buy a 30 dollar label maker and start labeling!!
  • Do not fly over or within an open-air assembly of persons
  • If your drone is between 250g-1kg you must maintain a lateral distance of 100 ft from vehicles, vessels, or the public (any person not associated with the operation of the aircraft)
  • If your drone is between 1-35kg you must maintain a lateral distance of 250 feet from vehicles, vessels, or the public

Transport Canada has indicated that if you do not follow these rules, you could put lives, aircraft, and property at risk, and face fines of up to $3,000.  Please be SMART about your drone operations!

Visit the Transport Canada website here, for more information about these rules and regulations for flying a drone recreationally in Canada.

Matthew Johnson

M3 Aerial Productions, Wolseley, MB,

I am a professional educator, serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces, UAV pilot, and owner of M3 Aerial Productions.

I am pleased to provide the community with amazing images they have never seen before, of their homes, farms, cottages, and more.