waterfront at Kenora

Flying Drones on Canada Day: What You Need To Know First!

Hooah!  School is done!  Kids are off for 2 months, and now it's finally time to head out to the lake!  Or maybe you want to head down to catch some of the Canada Day festivities on Osborne Street, or at The Forks in Winnipeg; Talbot Street in London; Whyte Avenue in Edmonton; or Riverfront Ave in Calgary... In case you were thinking of bringing your drone along to take some cool shots, please consider the following before you do:

1. Safety

Please consider the safety of not only yourself when trying to set up for a great drone shot, but also the safety of other people in the area.  If your drone is over 250g, it is illegal to fly over crowds of people, according to recent legislation announced by Transport Canada.  Remember that drones can be very distracting, and can cause accidents if used irresponsibly in that context.  If a drone is going to crash (due motor failure, battery failure, collision with birds, or any number of other possible scenarios) while it is flying over a crowd, think how likely it would be to hit someone.  You need to think of the risks when operating in inherently risky situations.

Also, be VERY aware of the current weather and the conditions in the forecast when flying a drone!  Weather is the #1 Drone Killer - beware!!!  We like to use SpotWX.com for an easy, detailed and accurate forecast that really nicely shows the anticipated temperature, precipitation, and wind conditions over the next 36 hours very well!

2. Regulations

If you're flying your drone for fun (recreational) in Canada, you need to stay at least 100ft from people, if not 250ft minimum.  The numbers are different if you are operating commercially, and depending on the size of your drone, but in either case, it is not permitted to operate a drone over crowds of people.

You need to keep your distance from aerodromes (airports, waterplane bases, etc.).  This means if you're planning on fly your drone near the waterfront at Kenora, Ontario, or at Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg, so you can get some great shots of the party, you're not going to be able to unless you are approved by NAV CANADA AND your SFOC (Special Flight Operations Certificate) allows for these types of UAV operations.  The only way you can operate within 3 nautical miles (about 5.5km) of an airport is to have an SFOC for commercial drone operations.

If you are not sure of where the aerodromes are in your area, use the UAV Site Selection Tool by the National Research Council of Canada.  It shows aerodromes and restricted park areas very well!

Also, there is lots of air traffic on Canada Day, so make sure that you don't fly beyond 300ft above ground level.

Remember that you must ALWAYS be able to see your drone!  There is a maximum allowed distance from the pilot of 1640ft (or 500m).  Just because it is capable of flying 3-5 miles away, doesn't mean you should test out it's capabilities.  Everything you do with your DJI drone is tracked - data is collected on every movement, every second of the flight... so remember that when you want to go outside the regulations - if something were to go wrong, negligence may be a factor, and that is never good for anyone.

Night flights are also not allowed.  It is extremely dangerous to fly a drone close to a fireworks display.  You might as well fly it though a flock of geese (no don't do that either!).

3. Repercussions 

The maximum penalty for an individual for violation of any of the recreational rules states above is $3,000.  But if you cause damage to another person or property, you may be looking at a criminal charge due to negligence.  Depending on the degree of the incident, the punishment could be very costly.  Make sure you consider any thought to fly your drone at least twice!  

4. Communication

If you are flying recreationally, there is no requirement to communicate with NAV CANADA.  But it's still not a bad idea to give them a call and ask if you can fly wherever it is that you are planning on flying.  If you are flying commercially, under an SFOC or the Exemption from an SFOC, just remember that you need to communicate with NAV CANADA prior to any flights within 5 nautical miles of an aerodrome.  

Not sure how to contact NAV CANADA?  Well, you can call 1-800-WX-BRIEF to get the weather and submit NOTAMS, but you should email or call the unit operations specialist for your area first.  

If you are reading this on June 30th, or Canada Day... it is far too late for you to start looking into that now.  Next year, you will want to start prepping for your drone operation at least 7 days in advance.