This article was written under the old regulations. Check out our updated article, a “Step By Step Guide How To Become A Drone Pilot In Canada.”
The one question we are asked more than anything else is "How do I become a drone pilot?" I get asked this question almost daily by students at the high school that I teach at, and where I run a "Drone Club." Students at Elmwood High School in Winnipeg are able to get the same training that someone who registers for our full UAV Ground School Training Program would receive - though over a much longer time frame.
My answer to them is that, first of all, it is not as easy as just buying a drone and putting it in the air. There is a difference between someone who can fly a drone, and someone who can pilot a drone. A pilot understands the risks, and can adapt to situations, making informed decisions, and communicate their intentions in a timely and effective manner.
There are 3 components required in order to become a certified, professional drone pilot in Canada...
A HIGH QUALITY DRONE
You will need to buy a RPAS system that is capable of capturing high resolution aerial photos and video (preferably 4k video, as that is where everything is heading these days). It should be a multi-rotor design, as these are the most versatile frames available, and allow you to operate in the most situations. It needs to have a high quality ground station (remote controller) that can transmit a minimum of 500m. The drone needs to be able to fly for at least 15 to 20 minutes. There are systems available now, such as the Phantom 4 Professional that can fly for over 30 minutes.
There are many options available on the market, though DJI is one of the most tried-and-tested platforms, and are sort of like the Microsoft of the 1990s for drones. They have systems ranging from tiny to huge - a selfie drone such as the DJI Spark - or a workhorse RPAS such as the DJI Inspire 2 or Matrice 200. There are many options, but in my opinion, at the time of writing this article, the RPAS Phantom 4 Professional is one of the most amazing drones on the market at this time, and I would highly recommend it for both recreational and commercial use.
CANADIAN DRONE GROUND SCHOOL TRAINING
The United States has their own professional RPAS certification called a Part 107 (formerly the Section 333), which is similar, yet distinctly different than the Canadian Part IX RPAS Pilot Certificate that is now required to fly drones in Canada.
Once you’ve completed your Ground School training, you’ll need to write and pass your Basic or Advanced RPAS Pilot Certificate exam through the Transport Canada website. Check out our latest blog post about the entire process here.
The final piece of the puzzle is special drone liability insurance that is specific to the operation of RPAS systems. Professional or General liability insurance is not enough. You should be looking at an annual policy that covers risks to liability for the type of operations you are looking for. There is no longer a minimum liability insurance requirement as there was in the past, however, it is recommended that you look at a minimum of $2MM. Many professional clients will require that you have as high as $5MM or even $10MM (Netflix, Warner Bros, etc.).
There are many insurance companies out there that are now offering drone insurance policies, however, if you are going to be getting this sort of coverage, you want to make sure that the company you get it from knows what they're talking about. They should be able to answer any question you have about the industry, without delay. In Canada, one of the best options for RPAS liability insurance coverage is HUB International.
You'll need to work hard to make your business standout from the others, but with these three steps, you will be well on your way!
Let us know if you have any questions!