At CES, in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has issued a statement regarding Canada's new rules for drone pilots.
"Drones provide limitless possibilities for first responders, hobbyists and commercial users," said Douglas Johnson, Vice President of Technology Policy, with the CTA. "These new rules by Canada are the first step in transforming the country's aviation industry and will allow many of its sectors that rely on drone technology to grow."
"We thank Transport Canada for working with the public and private sectors and reaching reasonable approaches to drone registration and pilot certification, altitude restrictions and rules for nighttime operations in its first permanent regulations for drones."
Canada's new rules were announced by Transport Canada this week. They come into force June 1, and apply to pilots flying drones between 250g and 25kg. ‘Micro' drones weighing under 250g will be subject to looser regulations, though pilots will still need to be aware of some important restrictions.
"We've listened closely to feedback from Canadians and have updated our regulations to balance practicality and the safe use of drones," stated The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport. "Drones are part of an important economic sector with significant potential to improve lives and connect communities across the country. Our new regulations will create new opportunities for Canadians by establishing a safe and predictable regulatory environment where the industry can innovate and where recreational and non-recreational drone pilots can safely access Canadian airspace."
The new Canadian drone regulations are essentially a 'lite' version of the rules that have long applied to manned aircraft. They're sensible enough, but it's hard to predict the impact on an industry that's so far enjoyed a far looser regime.
Drone operations will now be divided into two categories: basic and advanced. Both categories will require drones to be registered and marked with the registration number. Pilots will need to pass an online exam, somewhat more stringent for advanced operation, and have their pilot certificate (printed or electronic) with them. There will be a minimum age of 14 for basic operations and 16 for advanced, unless supervised by a person having proper certificates.
The new rules spell out where drones can and cannot be flown. For basic operations, they need to stay at least 30m away from bystanders. Advanced operation additionally allows them to be flown 30m above bystanders. Basic operations are allowed only in uncontrolled airspace where no Air Traffic Control (ATC) is provided, whereas advanced operations can fly in controlled airspace with ATC clearance.
Additionally, drones cannot be operated closer than 3 nautical miles (5.6km) from airports listed in the Canada Flight Supplement, or 1 nautical mile (1.9km) from heliports. They also can't be flow within national parks, over emergency sites (such as fires or traffic accidents). These restrictions rule out a large proportion of the most populous areas of Canada.
A Special Flight operations Certificate is required in order to fly at "an advertised event," or above 122m, or to operate drone weighing over 25kg. In any case, drones must be kept clear of manned aircraft or other drones, and must respect the privacy of others.
Before each flight, pilots are required to consult the Canada Flight Supplement, the Designated Airspace Handbook, appropriate aeronautical charts and all Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) for the flight location. These requirements will be familiar to those holding a Private or Commercial Pilot's license, but may come as a shock to earthbound drone jockeys.
Liability insurance is not required, but it is recommended. Transport Canada cautions that most home insurance policies do not cover the use of drones.
Penalties for violations will be reasonably stiff: $1,000 for flying a drone without a pilot certificate, or flying an unregistered or unmarked drone, or flying in an area that's not allowed; and $3,000 for putting aircraft or people at risk. Fines can stack up in the event of multiple infractions, and are higher for corporations.
Rules for drones under 250g are not included in the new regulation. However, even such micro drones are subject to various parts of the Criminal Code, provincial Trespass Acts and laws against voyeurism or other violations of privacy.