The topic and concern of drones came up during our 2019 AGM. Transport Canada released major updates to the drone safety and privacy regulations shortly after that. So what better time then to create a primer on what you should know about drones! Brought to you compliments of David Greig…
WHAT’S THE LATEST BUZZ ABOUT FLYING DRONES?
In June 2019, new rules and regulations came into effect. Before you fly your drone, you should be aware of the laws relating to safe operation and the privacy of others. In many cases you must carry a valid drone pilot certificate, and your drone must be both registered and marked accordingly. Although we have summarized a lot of information below, we recommend that you visit Transport Canada’s website on drone safety for more complete details.
HOW MUCH DOES YOUR DRONE WEIGH?
If your drone weighs less than 250 grams, it does not need to be registered. However, you must take care that you fly responsibly so that you do not put people or other aircraft in danger, and only fly your drone where you can see it at all times.
If your drone weighs more than 250 grams, it must be registered before you can fly it (this regulation came into effect June 1, 2019) and it must be marked with its registration number. If you lose your drone or it is stolen, registration may help in returning the drone to you if it is found. Transport Canada may also notify you if there is a manufacturer’s recall. If you do not register and mark your drone, you can be fined. It only takes a few minutes to register at Transport Canada’s website. Your drone must be marked with its registration number (instructions can be found here).
If your drone weighs over 25 kilograms, you will need to get a Special Flight Operations Certificate from Transport Canada before you can fly it.
BEFORE YOU FLY…
Whether you are flying basic or advanced operations (more on that later), understand your legal requirements and obtain the necessary knowledge and certificates. Canadian Aviation Regulations Part IX—Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems contains most of the rules that apply to drones weighing less than 25 kilograms.
Read and follow your drone manufacturer’s instructions. Survey the area where you will fly, noting any obstacles such as buildings and power lines.
Although not required (yet), it is recommended that you buy public liability insurance for your drone. Most standard home insurance policies do not cover the use of drones.
Privacy laws apply to pictures, videos or other information collected by a drone. Some violations of a person’s privacy may include offences that result in charges, including using drones in a way that could be construed as voyeurism, mischief, creating a nuisance or a violation of provincial or municipal laws.
When you fly a drone, you’re responsible for all the personal information it collects. Take reasonable steps to avoid capturing personal information (a name, a picture of a person’s face or a license number). If it is likely you will capture people’s personal information on your flight, take reasonable steps to tell those affected and get their consent. Be open and responsive about your activities, and if someone complains that your drone flight is harming their privacy, respond with respect and courtesy. In general, it is a good idea to make any personal information captured without consent anonymous by blurring faces or license plates. If you save recordings that contain personal information, take reasonable steps to ensure that no one else can access the information.
BASIC AND ADVANCED OPERATIONS
In Canada, there are two main categories of drone operation – Basic and Advanced. You must meet all three of the following conditions to conduct Basic Operations:
- You do not fly your drone in uncontrolled airspace; and
- You fly it more than 30 metres horizontally from bystanders; and
- You never fly your drone over bystanders.
To fly a drone that weighs more than 250 grams for Basic Operations, you must pass the Small Basic Exam and be able to show your “Pilot Certificate – Basic Operations” and proof of registration when you fly.
For Basic Operations you must pilot your drone under the following conditions:
- where you can see it at all times — visual-line-of-sight means keeping your device in sight without visual aid such as binoculars or video feed, and not flying into clouds or fog, or behind trees, buildings or other (even partial) obstructions;
- more than 30 metres (horizontally) from bystanders;
- below 122 metres (vertically);
- more than 1.9 km from heliports, aerodromes or seaplane bases;
- more than 5.6 km from airports;
- outside of controlled air spaces, and away from emergency sites;
- away from any advertised events such as outdoor concerts, sporting events or parades.
Drone pilots are not allowed to fly within the security perimeter of a police or first responder emergency operations, such as a traffic accident. Pilots must also avoid sites near disasters (forest fires, floods, earthquakes). A drone flying near these areas may interfere with emergency personnel aircraft and the work of emergency personnel.
If you meet any one of the following conditions, you are conducting Advanced Operations:
- You want to fly over bystanders; or
- You want to fly within 30 metres horizontally of bystanders; or
- You want to fly in controlled air space
To fly a drone that weighs more than 250 grams for Advanced Operations, your drone must be safety approved. When you register your drone, the certificate you receive might not contain the safety declaration. Once the manufacturer has submitted its declaration to Transport Canada, you will receive an email that explains which advanced operations your drone is approved for. Until you receive this email, you may only fly the drone for Basic Operations. You will also need to:
- pass the Small Advanced Exam;
- be able to show your Pilot Certificate—Advanced Operations and proof of registration;
- pass a flight review;
- seek permission from air traffic control to fly in controlled airspace; and
- fly within the operational limits of your drone.
Advanced operations are complicated. Visit Transport Canada’s website for more information.