Droning On: Canada’s New Drone Regulations

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Transport Canada has unveiled a new set of proposed drone regulations, which would apply to small(ish) drones - those weighing 25 kg or less - that are flown within sight of the operator. Large drones continue to be governed by the Special Flight Operations Certificate (“SFOC”) regime described in a previous post. Once these new regulations come into force, they will replace the SFOC temporary exemptions implemented in November 2014.

The regulations create three different - and aptly-named - categories: very small drones, small drones (limited operations), and small drones (complex operations). Within each of these categories, the proposed regulations address topics required to integrate drones into Canadian airspace, including drone maintenance, flight rules, and operator certification.

The proposed regulations come at a time when drone pilot schools are proliferating, meeting growing demand from both the private and public sector. Formal certification of those schools would not be required under Transport Canada’s proposal, but drone pilots would have to pass knowledge tests covering subjects such as air law, navigation, and meteorology.

There is good news for those wishing to use drones both here and south of the border: Transport Canada has indicated that it will work to align its regulations with those of the International Civil Aviation Organization and the U.S. In fact, the proposal explicitly recognizes the growing potential for drones in commercial activites, and states that Transport Canada will need to consider “trade-related implications” of drone use.

The proposal is available here. Annex A on page 32  contains a convenient overview of the proposed framework.

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