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Transport Canada’s Interim Order Formalizes Restrictions on Recreational Drone Operators

March 21st, 2017   Authored by Greg Wells, Q.C. and Madison Schwartz

Transport Canada released an Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft on March 13, 2017:

Click Here to Access the Order

This new Order is aimed at addressing public safety and aviation safety concerns centred on the recent explosion in use of recreational drones. A more comprehensive set of updated regulations are due later in the year.

The Order codifies several restrictions on recreational unmanned air vehicle (UAV or “drone”) operators. Prior to the issuance of the Order, similar restrictions were contained in Transport Canada guidelines.

The Order prohibits recreational drone operators from flying:

  1. At an altitude greater than 300 feet (90m) above ground level (AGL);
  2. At a lateral distance of less than 250 feet (75m) from “buildings, structures, vehicles, vessels, animals”, and individuals not associated with the operation of the drone;
  3. Within 9km of the centre of an aerodrome;
  4. Within controlled airspace;
  5. Within restricted airspace;
  6. Within 9 km of a forest fire;
  7. Over or near police, or EMS emergency operations;
  8. Over an open-air assembly of persons;
  9. At night; or
  10. In cloud.

The Order also prohibits an operator to operate more than one drone at a time and specifies that drone operators must give way to manned aircraft at all times.

The Order specifies that a drone operator must operate the drone within a Visual Line-of-Sight at all times, and at a lateral distance of no more than 500m from the operator.

The Order also specifies that the contact information of the owner of the drone (including name, address, and telephone number) must be clearly marked on the drone prior to operation. This policy is less stringent than the American FAA’s registration system which came into effect in late 2015, wherein recreational users must register their drone with the FAA online and affix the registration number to their drone.

There continues to be no formal registry for recreational drone operators in Canada, nor is there a formal knowledge testing or licencing requirement.

Recreational users face fines of $3,000 ($15,000 for a corporation) for failure to comply with the provisions outlined in the new Order.

Under the Order, recreational drones continue to be classified as “model aircraft” and are exempt from compliance with Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) 602.41. Note that the Order only applies to drones which meet the definition of “model aircraft” (under 35kg and operated for recreational purposes).

Drones not meeting the classification of “model aircraft”, or drones being used for commercial purposes continue to require a Special Flight Operation Certificate (SFOC) unless qualified for an exemption. Exemptions are currently granted to commercial UAVs under 25kg, and with a maximum calibrated airspeed of 87 kts or less provided the operator complies with the criteria set out in the Exemption:

Click Here to Access the Exemption