Tell More More about the Transport Canada Drone Exemptions

New Rules for Commercial Drone Operations

On December 21st 2016, the Canadian Minister of Transport, The Honourable Marc Garneau released the latest update to the "exemption" regulations governing the commercial operations of a UAV without a Special Flight Operations Certificate.  The Exemption from Sections 602.41 and 603.66 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (requirements for an SFOC) can be found on the Transport Canada website here.  

Exemption from an SFOC

There are actually TWO exemptions, which have slightly different rules... one is for UAVs that weigh one kg or less, and the other is for UAVs that weigh above one kg (up to and including 25 kg).  Lets see if we can clarify some of the confusing parts about the UAV Exemptions in Canada...  I would also like to point out that, with 61 conditions that must be met in order to fall under one of the exemptions, it is really difficult to do so!

Matthew Johnson, President of M3 Aerial Productions with the DJI Inspire, checking out some alfalfa in Southern Manitoba for the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association's Green Gold Program.

Matthew Johnson, President of M3 Aerial Productions with the DJI Inspire, checking out some alfalfa in Southern Manitoba for the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association's Green Gold Program.

These exemptions do not apply to operations of model aircraft, autonomous UAV or operations by a foreign UAV operator.  

So what do I need to know about flying a drone commercially in Canada?

Lets look at some of the "highlights" of the Exemption that apply across both exemptions.

GENERAL CONDITIONS

These are conditions that are specific to the operator, or the operation.  The number one rule of commercial UAV operation - THE GOLDEN RULE - is that:

#1 - Any person conducting operations under the exemption shall conduct a safe operation and shall not pose a risk to aviation safety. 

This is tied in with #2, in that operators must not operate a drone in a reckless or negligent manner so as to endanger the life or property of any person.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Pretty simple.  I don't want a drone crashing into my plane, or into my FACE when I'm watching my favourite band rock out at a concert.  Drones are not perfect.  They are intrinsically imperfect (they have to FIGHT GRAVITY all the time).  Things can go wrong in SO MANY ways... so please take every precaution before every flight, because each flight is the most important flight, every time.

#4 - Any person conducting operations under this exemption shall subscribe for liability insurance covering risks of public liability, no less than $100,000.  Many UAV insurance carriers, such as Drone Insurance Depot offer $1M-$5M at reasonable rates.  They are also very knowledgeable experts in the field.  Jeff McCann at Drone Insurance Depot can answer any drone-related insurance question you might have.  He is an excellent resource.

#12 - A copy of the following documents shall be accessible to any person conducting operations under the exemption:

  • The exemption
  • Proof of liability insurance coverage
  • Name, address, and telephone number of the UAV operator (in the case that the pilot-in-command is not the person in charge of the operation - generally, the department or company head)
  • A copy of the UAV system operating limitations
  • Evidence that the training required in condition 50 and 51 has been completed.

What do you mean "evidence that training has been completed?"  

Lets jump straight to 50 & 51 which fall under "Pilot Training Conditions"

#50 - The pilot operating a UAV system under this exemption shall have successfully completed a pilot ground school program that provides instruction on: airspace classification and structure, meteorological and NOTAM reporting services, interpretation of aeronautical charts and the Canada Flight Supplement, and the Canadian Aviation Regulations.

#51 - The pilot conducting operations under this exemption shall be appropriately trained on the UAV system and qualified for the area and type of operation.

So where can I find a UAV Pilot Ground School?

M3 Aerial Productions UAV Pilot Ground School Course.  A 2-day comprehensive course, which also includes an online study portion.  Our drone pilot ground school program is offered in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and MANY more locations.

M3 Aerial Productions UAV Pilot Ground School Course.  A 2-day comprehensive course, which also includes an online study portion.  Our drone pilot ground school program is offered in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and MANY more locations.

Right here!  We offer in-class training across Canada.  Find out more about our UAV Pilot Ground School Course here.

FLIGHT CONDITIONS

These are subject to change between the two exemptions, but there are a few conditions that are applicable across the board.

#15 - The pilot must maintain unaided (no binoculars!) visual contact with the drone and be able to scan the airspace in which it is operating

#21 - The pilot must operate during daylight hours.  Not sure what daylight hours means?  Check out the weather network and look for when sunrise and sunset are... there is an exact time that says when daylight is done.

#22 - The pilot must operate at or below 300 ft above ground level.  You can't fly your drone into the clouds!!  Please don't do that!  

You can often find Class G airspace "in the middle of nowhere" - but not always.  Always check if a small airport may be located nearby even when you are operating at the farm, or cottage - somewhere you think is quite remote.

You can often find Class G airspace "in the middle of nowhere" - but not always.  Always check if a small airport may be located nearby even when you are operating at the farm, or cottage - somewhere you think is quite remote.

#23 - The pilot must only operate in Class G airspace.  Huh?  Not sure where that is?  Check out the UAV Site Selection Tool through the National Research Council Canada which shows an interactive map of where you can, and cannot fly based on airspace.  *NOTE* it does NOT show you EVERYWHERE you cannot fly.  You need to know that it is NOT ok to fly within "built-up areas."  

What is a built-up area Transport Canada?

Transport Canada has difficulty defining built-up areas... but it has been communicated to us that it could be considered anything more than 3-5 dwellings in a square mile.  Fairly vague... but I'm sure that's something they are working towards defining.

#26 - The pilot must not operate within 5 nautical miles (just over 9 km) from an airport

#27 - The pilot must not operate within 3 nautical miles (just over 5.5km) from a built-up area

REPORTING CONDITIONS

#58 - Any person operating under this exemption shall, prior to commencement of operations, notify the Minister, in writing, of: their name/address/phone/email, model of the UAV, type of work, geographic boundaries, and essentially confirm that the conditions of the exemption can be met and will be adhered to.

You can find a form to communicate your exemption operations to the Minister (for <1kg here) or (for 1-25kg here)

These current regulations will be in place until December 31st, 2019, or whenever the Minister decides to release some new regulations...

If you have any questions about these two exemptions, or about obtaining your SFOC, please Contact Us!  We'd love to hear from you!  ...and if you've decided that it's time that your UAV Pilot Certification Training - click here to start to register!

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.