We have had a chance to review the new regulations and here are the results of the first pass. These regulations mostly affect “small” drones 250 grams or more but not over 25 kilograms. We will not consider the regulatory affect on larger drones nor will we consider Beyond Visual Line of Sight – BVLOS – operations. The bulk of these new regulations come into force on June 1, 2019. Until then, the current requirement for a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) for most commercial operations is maintained. Once the new regulations come into force, most commercial operations will no longer require an SFOC.
The official name for a drone has been changed from “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – UAV” to “Remotely Piloted Aircraft System – RPAS”. This is not prompted by any motivation towards gender neutrality, but an adoption of the term used by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Further, the ICAO term is a more accurate description. It is possible to argue that a remotely piloted aircraft is indeed “manned” by the pilot on the ground. An aircraft with a remote pilot is a better description. Further, an RPAS in Canda is prohibited from carrying a “living creature”.
A Remotely Piloted Aircraft System consists, at a minimum, of the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), the control station and the command and control link between them.
Fines for contravening the regulations have been increased. They range from a maximum of $3,000 for an individual to a maximum of $25,000 for a corporation. Further, the RCMP and local police are now part of the enforcement team.
Registration (June 1, 2019)
Drones 250 grams and over, whether used commercially or recreationally, must be registered and the registration must be clearly marked on the RPA. Further, the certificate must be available while flying. Registration costs $5 bucks; less than a grande latte. Here’s the link to the Drone Management Portal (DMP)
You will need to login through GCKey, the federal government-wide secure access system.
Advanced vs Basic Operations (June 1, 2019)
As expected, the new regulations differentiate between “Basic” and “Advanced” operations. Basic operations require no more than a Basic RPAS such as any of those currently available today. Advanced operations require an Advanced RPAS. There are no currently available Advanced RPAS, other than those few that have been declared “Compliant” using the current standards.
Basic operations are not allowed in controlled airspace (anything other than Class G),
Proximity to People
Basic operations are not allowed closer than 100 feet laterally from people, other than crew members or other persons involved in the operation. Operations at a special aviation event or an advertised event (concert, festival, market or sporting event) require an SFOC. Interestingly, there is no mention of operations in proximity to buildings, vehicles and animals. Further, the pilot and any visual observers can be on or in a moving vehicle or vessel as long as they are not operating it.
Proximity to Airports and Heliports
Basic operations cannot take place within three nautical miles of the centre of an airport or within one nautical mile of the centre of a heliport. An RPAS cannot be flown at an aerodrome in a manner that could interfere with an aircraft operating in the established traffic pattern.
The maximum altitude for an RPAS is now 400 feet Above Ground Level – AGL – (up from 300 feet). Further, if within 200 feet of an obstruction or a building, you can go up to 100 feet above the top.
Pilots for basic operations need to be at least 14 years old and hold a “Pilot Certificate – Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft (VLOS) – Basic Operations” (or under the supervision a pilot certificate holder). The pilot certificate can be obtained by taking the basic exam (35 questions with a 65% pass) on the DMP ($10). There is also a recency requirement. Pilots must, at least, complete a Transport Canada-endorsed self-paced study program every 24 months.
Advanced operations require an advanced RPAS and there are three flavours of advanced RPAS:
- Allowed to fly in controlled airspace (Classes C, D, E and F – including Restricted Airspace) but no closer than 100 feet from people;
- Allowed to fly in controlled airspace and closer than 100 feet from people but no closer than 16.4 feet; and,
- Allowed to fly in controlled airspace and closer than 16.4 feet from people (essentially overhead).
Assuming the pilot has a Pilot Certificate – Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft (VLOS) – Advanced Operations and is flying an Advanced RPAS, operations within controlled airspace, even Class F – Restricted, are allowed. A clearance is required based on a flight plan that is a subset of the information currently required on an SFOC application. For restricted airspace, permission from the controlling agency is required.
Proximity To People
The minimum distance from people not involved in the operation depends on the level of approval granted to the manufacturer for each model. As described above there are three levels: no closer than 100 feet, no closer than 15.4 feet and overhead.
Proximity to Airports and Heliports
With an Advanced license and an Advanced RPAS, you can fly within three nautical miles of an airport and within one nautical mile of a heliport as long as there is an “…established procedure with respect to the use of remotely piloted aircraft systems applicable to that airport or heliport.” The “established procedures” are defined in the notes for each airport/heliport displayed in the NRC Drone Site Selection Tool.
With an appropriate clearance from the airspace controlling agency, flights higher than 400 feet AGL are allowed.
Pilots for advanced operations need to be at least 16 years old and hold a “Pilot Certificate – Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft (VLOS) – Advanced Operations” (or under the supervision an advanced pilot certificate holder). The pilot certificate can be obtained by taking the advanced exam (50 questions, 80% pass) on the DMP ($10) and successfully completing a flight review administered by an approved flight reviewer (you’re in luck! We’re getting set up as an approved flight reviewer.). There is also a recency requirement. Pilots must, at least, complete a Transport Canada-endorsed self-paced study program every 24 months.
Special Flight Operations Certificate – RPAS (June 1, 2019)
Under the new regulations, there is very little need for an SFOC. The only specifically defined situations include:
- Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS);
- An RPAS weighing more than 25 kg;
- Foreign operators;
- Operations higher than 400 feet AGL (or 100 feet above the top of an obstacle) in Class G airspace;
- One pilot operating more than 5 RPAs at one time;
- Operations at special events;
- Operations with hazardous payloads; and,
- Within three nautical miles of the centre of a military aerodrome.
Insurance (June 1, 2019)
The most surprising change from the status quo is the lack of a requirement for liability insurance. While ridiculously low, the previous requirement for $100,000. of liability coverage for commercial operations was at least basic.
Training (June 1, 2019)
We are also surprised at the lack of a requirement for training or, more appropriately, education. There is currently a requirement for 20 hours of ground school but, as of June 1, 2019, that requirement goes away. While our objections may seem self-serving, we note that manned aviation has always had a requirement for 40 hours of ground school in addition to the written exam. We find it difficult to understand why the ground school for RPAS has been dropped.
Advanced RPAS (June 1, 2019)
The proposed rules in Canada Gazette 1 required that the RPAs for advanced operations would have to meet a design standard that embraced the SAFE (Safety Assured Flight Envelope) concept. Unfortunately, this design standard was not defined, causing much confusion and uncertainty as to what was required to continue operating past the implementation date. Fortunately, SAFE seems to have disappeared and the design standard has been published as Standard 922 that seems straight forward. While the devil is in the details, DJI, the major consumer/professional RPAS manufacturer, has been quite enthusiastic about the final version.
Most is as expected or better. The certification of the aircraft is still a bit unknown but the situation is certainly much less bleak than it was after the initial Canada Gazette I release in 2017. We’ll have to wait and see.