New Canadian Drone Laws Will Kill Canada’s Drone Industry!
Will Canada’s New Drone Laws Kill The Drone Industry?
If you live in Canada, or plan to visit and fly a drone, you had better get familiar with the new interim drone laws recently introduced by Transport Canada! If you don’t, you might be shelling out more money than your drone cost you – a lot more. The current fine for an infraction is $3000!
In our opinion, these new drone laws are the most poorly written and vague ever introduced by a branch of the Canadian Government. In not so many words, the new drone laws in Canada effectively make it impossible to fly a drone anywhere in Canada.
If you think we are kidding, read on…
The following are the main sections of the new laws and our thoughts on each. These apply to an aircraft, the total weight of which does not exceed 35 kg (77.2 pounds), that is mechanically driven or launched into flight for recreational purposes and that is not designed to carry persons or other living creatures. The sections/titles listed below are shown as officially defined/written by the Canadian Government. I will provide a link to the site at the bottom of this article.
Section (b) and (c) (highlighted in dark orange) are the two prohibitions that will effect most of us.
Model Aircraft Operating and Flight Provisions
(a) at an altitude greater than 300 feet AGL;
Considering that most other countries have set the maximum altitude of 400′, it seems a very odd height to specify as a maximum height restriction. Considering most aircraft reach an altitude of 1000′ before leaving the proposed 9km restricted zone of an aerodrome – 400′ seems more than low enough to provide safe airspace for manned aircraft.
(b) at a lateral distance of less than 250 feet (75m) from buildings, structures, vehicles, vessels, animals and the public including spectators, bystanders or any person not associated with the operation of the aircraft;
NOW THIS IS THE BIG ONE!!! A lateral distance means in all directions – up, down and sideways. 250′ is not a long distance outdoors!
Can this be any more vague? This effectively eliminates flying your drone anywhere. Vehicles are everywhere, vessels (boats?) will be found on almost any body of water in the warm months and there is no definition as to what kind of vessels and what size. Does this mean flying over some fishermen on a remote lake is illegal? YES!
Animals! What is defined as an animal? They are everywhere! Is this large animals, farm animals, or does it include small animals like squirrels, or dogs and cats? This is so vague and seriously needs to be addressed and defined in detail. As it stands right now, there is nowhere that you can fly that does not have some kind of animal present.
The public, bystanders or any person? Again, so restrictive and ludicrous. What this means is you will have to ensure your drone is always 250′ away from any person. If you happen to be in a small campsite with a radius of less than 250′, you can’t operate your drone… even in larger areas this will be extremely problematic.
All in all, this section, of all the prohibitions listed, makes flying a drone virtually impossible!
(c) within 9 km of the centre of an aerodrome;
An aerodrome is define as follows
An aerodrome or airdrome (mainly American English) is a location from which aircraft flight operations take place, regardless of whether they involve air cargo, passengers, or neither. Aerodromes include small general aviation airfields, large commercial airports, and military airbases.
There are many of these in and around most major cities across Canada (as many as 100+ in some Eastern Canadian cities), with a 9km radius restriction zone, this basically prevents you from flying anywhere in the city and nearby suburbs. This restriction alone will kill sales and use of drones in most big cities across Canada.
(d) within controlled airspace;
What is controlled airspace? These are typically classified in to different airspace types. The one we can fly in is defined as Class G, which is uncontrolled air space. As long as there is an effective and easy way for the public to get this information it makes sense.
(e) within restricted airspace;
What is restricted air space? Think about the recent incident with a drone landing on the White House lawn and the chaos that ensued – that is Restricted airspace. Parliament Hill, prisons, military bases, borders etc. Any airspace, that if invaded, could pose a threat or risk to those in that airspace (especially Government & Military related). A good dose of common sense is all that is really needed to understand this one. No drone operators should have an issue with this law.
(f) over or within a forest fire area, or any area that is located within 9 km of a forest fire area;
As with section (g) below, this makes sense. Any object in the air that can be dangerous to air crews fighting a fire must be eliminated – period. I don’t think anyone will argue or have a problem with this law. However, it was brought about because some idiots have done this in the past and caused a dangerous situation for these crews.
(g) over or within the security perimeter of a police or first responder emergency operation site;
This also makes sense and it is straight forward. They are trying to save lives or maybe dealing with a dangerous situation. They do not need interference that could be disruptive or even dangerous to those on the scene.
(h) over or within an open-air assembly of persons;
Within limitation, this makes sense. A quadcopter/drone falling into a crowd could cause serious injury. However, there is no definition of how many people constitute an “assembly” of people. This would also restrict you from filming a wedding party or large group of people at an event from the air – this needs to be defined and should include an opportunity for permitting should you wish to film a large group – or is requested
(i) at night; or
For most of us this won’t be a big deal, especially if you live in rural or remote areas where is pitch black at night. However, in the city there is some spectacular footage to be had at night and this will be a big let down for some. Not the end of the world, but in the city at night there is usually enough light to fly.
Where this law is too vague is in regards to dusk or dawn. What is defined as night, at what levels of light is it considered night time? Some of the best footage can be taken at sunrise or sunset and this needs to be clarified!
(j) in cloud.
For the most part, I can’t see most drone owners wanting to fly blind in clouds. As long as clouds is clearly defined as a mass of moist air where visibility is restricted to a distance not considered safe to fly in, then it is good. Problem here is no definition is specified with any degree of clarity. Is thin fog considered a cloud? I think you can see where this could be a problem.
Right of Way
A person operating a model aircraft must give way to manned aircraft at all times.
Considering the prohibitions noted previously, it is not likely this will happen. If it was to occur, I think most drone operators would not think twice about getting their drone out of harms way – Most of us would consider this a no brainer!
(1) A person operating a model aircraft must ensure that it is operated within VLOS at all times during the flight.
Most DJI drones now have a 7km control range and FPV controllers allowing them to fly with full visuals. This law needs to be amended to read more along the lines of; any person operating a model aircraft lacking a FPV controller, extended control range and RTH (return to home) feature must keep their aircraft within VLOS at all times… It really shows that those writing these laws do not understand the drone industry and current technology on these drones.
Of course, for drones without these features it makes perfect sense – for the others, this law makes no sense. Part of the thrill of using a drone with these features is the ability to venture into places you cannot walk into or get access to any other way – hidden gems so to speak.
(2) No person shall operate a model aircraft when the aircraft is at a lateral distance of more than 1640 feet (500 m) from the person’s location.
See section 1 prior – this is basically the same thing with a maximum distance specified.
Certification is Coming!
Don’t be surprised if a new law is soon passed preventing anyone from flying a drone without certified training! One that will require all drone owners to take a certified training course and require an operator (pilot) card issued upon passing. It just smells of another good revenue opportunity for the Government!
This is no different than the laws in regards to watercraft over 14′ and 9hp motors. This is just too big an opportunity (Money Grab) for the Government of Canada to ignore. If we are required to take courses and pay a fee to operate — times millions of drone owners – well, just do the math, it will add up to some healthy numbers. If for no other reason, the Government of Canada will push these laws forward as a means to add revenue to its income base.
The Drone Industry is exploding and there are a lot of businesses in Canada prospering from the boom. If these laws are not modified to allow people to fly drones with reasonable restrictions, the losses will be huge. The Canadian Government must take this into consideration!
From an operators perspective, drones open up a whole new world to be discovered and filmed. As it stands right now, one may as well pack up their drones and store them away – the restrictions are so limiting that you can’t go anywhere, or film anything right now without doing so illegally (anything worthwhile that is) – which I am sure some will do. The drawback? Post your footage on YouTube and you are busted!
Need More Information?
This overview is not inclusive of all sections and definitions of these new regulations. If you wish to view the full documention please view the Official Transport Canada Drone Regulations Page Here