With beautiful locations like Stanley Park, Banff Park, and the CN tower, Canada is a great place to take pictures, especially with high-end drones. But to buy and operate drones in Canada, you must have a license. Canada has made several changes to its drone laws that you, as a casual photographer or professional, need to know.
Overview of the Previous Rules
Previously, Canada had two sets of drone laws: one for pilots flying commercially and one for those flying recreationally. Pilots flying commercially had to pass a test and contact the TCAA to obtain a special flight operations certificate. Recreational pilots, on the other hand, did not have to receive a license and only had to obey certain restrictions.
Under the new laws, a) there are new rules that now apply to all pilots and b) both recreational and commercial pilots must obtain licenses.
All pilots must:
- Register their drones with Transport Canada
- Keep the registration number on their drone at all times
- Fly below 400 feet
- Fly away from the site of an emergency operation, advertised events, and other drones
- Fly away from other types of aircraft (e.g. planes or helicopters)
- Be able to see their drone and keep the drone within 500 meters of themselves
- Not fly their drones in certain parks, border crossings, and populated areas
- Not fly their drones within 1.9km of an airport.
- Respect the privacy of other people while flying
Canada now offers two types of licenses, Basic and Advanced, that have different requirements and restrictions. To reiterate, all drone pilots must obtain licenses, regardless of flying recreationally or commercially. With a basic license, pilots must a) keep their drone at least 30m away from bystanders and b) completely out of controlled airspace. Pilots with advanced licenses do not have these restrictions.
To receive the basic license, pilots must:
- Be 14 years or older
- Score a 65% or higher on the Small Basic Exam. The exam has 35 questions and a time limit of 90 minutes.
- Pay a $10 exam fee
- Print the certificate and keep it on them when flying their drone
The advanced license understandably has more requirements. Pilots must:
- Receive an 80% on the Small Advanced Exam. The exam is 50 multiple choice questions and 60 minutes long.
- Pay a $10 exam fee
- Go to a certified drone pilot school to undergo a pilot review. You may take the flight review as many times as you like, but the school will likely charge a fee for each attempt.
Drone pilots in Canada should be sure to educate themselves on the new rules and receive a license if they have not already done so. Please see Transport Canada’s site for more information.