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SFOC’s and Exemptions

UAV operations can be carried out under the authority of a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC), issued by Transport Canada. However, under certain conditions, operations can be exempted from the requirement to obtain an SFOC. There is one set of conditions for UAVs with a maximum take-off weight (with payload) of 2 kg (4.4 lbs) or less and a second set of conditions for UAVs with a maximum take-off weight exceeding 2 kg but not exceeding 25 kg (55 lbs).

Required Ground School Training

In all three cases, Transport Canada requires that the UAV pilots be appropriately trained.

All UAV operations require that:

  • Any person conducting operations under [an] exemption shall be familiar with the relevant aeronautical information that is appropriate to the intended flight, before commencing a flight.
  • No person operating under [an] exemption is relieved from complying with the provisions of any other relevant Acts, Regulations or laws or from any level of government.
  • The pilot conducting operations under [an] exemption shall be appropriately trained on the UAV system and qualified for the area and type of operation as referred to in Transport Canada guidance material.

For operations with a UAV between 2 kg and 25 kg, the requirement for training is more explicit in that it requires that the pilot complete:

…a pilot ground school program that provides instruction on the following subject areas:

  1. airspace classification and structure;
  2. meteorological and NOTAM reporting services;
  3. interpretation of aeronautical charts and the Canada Flight Supplement; and
  4. applicable content of the Canadian Aviation Regulations;

The training required for operations under the authority of an SFOC is more specific to the type of the operation and the characteristics of the UAV. We would be pleased to review your situation and recommend a course to fit both the stated requirements and the intent of the TC regulations.


Aero-Photos training programs have been developed by our President and Chief Pilot, Mike Venables. Mike has held a Commercial Pilot License for over 40 years with multi-engine land and sea ratings and an instrument endorsement. He was a glider instructor for a number of years and ran ground schools for more than one Flight Training Unit.

Mike graduated with a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering and has worked as an experimental test engineer for aircraft power plants (Pratt and Whitney Canada), an aircraft design engineer (Canadair/Bombardier Aerospace), a flight training simulator project engineer (CAE Electronics), a space systems training analyst (Canadian Space Agency) and an avionics product marketing manager (CMC Electronics).

The syllabus for all our courses is based on the outline defined in Transport Canada’s document “TP 15263 – Knowledge Requirements for Pilots of Unmanned Air Vehicle Systems”. There are, of course, many other aeronautical training references used to round out the material.

Training Delivery

Training for UAV operations is carried out in-person in a traditional classroom environment with small groups. This allows for the most efficient knowledge transfer. In addition, students benefit from the classroom environment as a question asked by one student helps all students.

While an exam is not specified, Aero-Photos has developed a series of exams to verify that the learning objectives have been met. A certificate, suitable for insurance and regulatory requirements, will be issued to each student upon successful completion.

Flight Training

If desired, a day of flight training is available using your UAV for initial training that is 100% applicable to your specific needs. Covers all aspects of operations including flight planning, pre-flight inspection, checklists, takeoffs, landings and basic manoeuvers. 

Radio Operators Certificate – Aeronautical

While not required, it can be helpful during UAV operations for the pilot to have a radio operators certificate. We can provide the training (if required) and the examination to issue the Industry Canada ROC-A that will allow the UAV pilot to communicate with other aircraft and Air Traffic Control (ATC) units.


All commercial UAV operators must be carry third party liability insurance. This is readily available from a number of sources relatively inexpensively.

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