New Transport Canada Rules for recreational drones
If you fly your drone for fun and it weighs more than 250 g and up to 35 kg, you do not need special permission from Transport Canada to fly.
Follow the basic safety rules below. Not doing so may put lives, aircraft and property at risk. If you fly where you are not allowed or choose not to follow any of the rules below, you could face fines of up to $3,000.
Do not fly your drone:
higher than 90 m above the ground
closer than 75 m from buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals, people/crowds, etc.
closer than nine km from the centre of an aerodrome (any airport, heliport, seaplane base or anywhere that aircraft take-off and land)
within controlled or restricted airspace
within nine km of a forest fire
where it could interfere with police or first responders
at night or in clouds
if you can’t keep it in sight at all times
if you are not within 500 m of your drone
if your name, address, and telephone number are not clearly marked on your drone.
The list above is an overview of the new rules for recreational drone users. Consult the Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft for the full list of provisions.
Members of the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC) who operate at MAAC sanctioned fields or events are not subject to these rules.
I would not be so quick to offer praise to MAAC, as it looks to me that they have protected themselves, but not necessarily done a great service to all aeromodelers in accepting Transport Canada's hasty dictum.
Below is a letter received from Jim Ewing, of Great Hobbies, which I believe expresses the real concerns very well:
Great Hobbies CEO Jim Ewing writes about the recently announced drone laws in Canada:
As many of you know, Transport Canada has just implemented very strict rules with regard to "drone" operation in Canada. This also adversely affects the operation of model aviation activities as a whole. Unfortunately, some of these restrictions have gone beyond reason. I have chosen to write an open letter to the Hon. Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport for Canada, stating my concerns. It is attached here. Please feel free to share.
Hon. Marc Garneau Minister of Transport House of Commons Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Mr. Garneau,
I can fully appreciate your concern with regard to the safe operation of unmanned flying vehicles, especially in relation to other person-carrying aircraft or when flying in close proximity to people and property on the ground. Sadly, there are a minority of operators that have disregarded courtesy and common sense, operating their vehicles where the safety of others could be a concern.
BUT, I have serious reservations on how this is being handled by Transport Canada, applying an overreaching, heavy hammer, that will affect model aviation in general.
I am writing to you as someone with a wide range of experience and perspectives:
• I am a member of the general public • I am a hobbyist who enjoys flying model aircraft • I am a private pilot with 1100 hours, flying regularly over the past ten years • I am a business owner, being principle partner in Great Hobbies Inc., the largest radio control model supplier in Canada
So, I cannot take the operation of drones (quadcopters and model aircraft), or how they are regulated, lightly. Regulations have to be implemented within reason, to curb the serious offenders, but not to basically devastate an activity completely. The rules as they currently stand, effectively do that for thousands of hobby enthusiasts—both “drone” operators, and model airplane enthusiasts, who have been unwittingly dragged into this as well.
I appreciate that you are working with the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada in recognizing the value of knowledgeable model enthusiasts, and allowing us, as members, to fly at our normally sanctioned flying fields and events. However, there are those of us that also choose to fly our models in a safe manner at other locations.
Case in point. I currently live on 7 acres of land in Stratford, a community adjacent to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. My property is surrounded by houses, but there is a tall tree-line buffer between my property and virtually every other adjacent property. I am 8 km from CYYG, the Charlottetown airport and 4 km from the helipad at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
I like to have the ability to fly hand launch radio control gliders or small electric aircraft (not heavy, but some may be greater than 250g) on my property. It is possible to do so without disturbing or being a threat to my neighbors. This flying is usually done at treetop level or below—probably at most 30 meters. THIS IS IN NO WAY A THREAT TO FULL SCALE AVIATION! If there is a full-scale aircraft close enough to be impeded by this kind of flying, there are a lot more serious issues to be dealt with, namely the offending aircraft involved.
With the current heavy-handed regulations, I cannot legally do so. As a matter of fact, any passer by is encouraged to call 911 to report me! This is ridiculous!
I fail to see why regulatory bodies cannot put more thought into their rule-making— addressing the problem where it exists, rather than impeding many other innocent people in the process.
We seem to live in a fear-based society where everything is becoming regulated to death. Kids have to take buses to school if they live more than a kilometer away—now there’s a childhood obesity epidemic! We want people to be outside and active, but towns are outlawing tobogganing on local hills and skating on local ponds for fear of liability. We want to get young people involved in activities where they are outside, learning skills, learning about technology in such activities as model aviation and again we want to regulate it out of existence.
We are supposed to be a free country, but fear and regulation eats away at that one little bite at a time!
Sir, you have had the privilege of being involved in aviation and flying in space. This opportunity was facilitated by many people who first experimented with models and technology, later applying what they learned to the development of vehicles such as the Space Shuttle. Please keep that in mind and help be an inspiration to young people and those interested in aviation and technology, rather than being a wet blanket. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!
A Look at the Rules as They Currently Stand
I do not have an issue with most of the rules, but there are a couple of very troubling ones.
The height restriction is an important rule and I do not have an issue with this. A height restriction is the key to keeping unmanned vehicles from interfering with full-scale operation. The chosen 90 meters is a bit lower than I may have initially suggested (400’, as per the decision of the FAA south of the border), but I can live with 90 meters.
I am also ok with other such rules as always fly within 500 meters of the user, not flying at night, not flying into the clouds, having identification on the vehicle, not flying near forest fires or other such identified emergency situations.
I do have issue with the other two rules, however, when they are applied as a blanket restriction.
No Flying Within 75 Meters of Buildings, Vehicles, Vessels, Animals or People
I can certainly see why one should not fly models or drones of any kind in a busy city core. I cringe at the Youtube videos where someone is launching a camera drone off their 23rd story deck in the middle of a large city. That should simply not happen. It is for a situation like this that the noted type of rule should be intended. It should also cover situations where there are crowds gathered. Crowds should not be flown over, and the device must maintain a reasonable distance, such as 75 meters in a lateral direction from a crowd.
However, there are many instances where it is completely safe to fly something while still being within that distance of any of those items. Again, refer to my situation. I am on 7 acres, but I am certainly going to be closer than 75 meters to my house, my workshop building, my vehicle, my dog, me, my wife, and most likely even a neighbor’s house, albeit buffered by a tree line.
This is where a blanket rule overreaches. Common sense must prevail.
No Flying Within 9 km of an Aerodrome
Again, I can certainly see where you don’t want any drone or model aircraft to be flying at any significant height close to a place where full scale aircraft are landing and taking off. This is common sense. But 9 whole kilometers!?
When you say “no flying within 9 kilometers” that is a very large area and needlessly completely eliminates any type of flying activity regardless of how low it may be to the ground. This rule should be balanced with a height restriction. If you’re within 2 km of the center of an aerodrome, you must be off the aerodrome property, away from the approach path, and not fly any higher than any adjacent trees or structures— let’s say 10 meters.
Between 2 kilometers and 5 kilometers, perhaps limit the height to 30 meters. Beyond the 5 kilometers, the 90-meter limit should suffice. If the aerodrome is a helipad, then the radius should be smaller.
Knee jerk reactions are not the way to make legislation. This interim rule-making has all the earmarks of a knee jerk reaction without serious thought of repercussions being considered. A balance must always be made between ensuring safety without impeding perfectly safe activities.
I ask you to reconsider a couple of these onerous rules. If you have the view that “of course no one is going to fine or prosecute you if you happened to be flying a 325g hand launch glider in your private yard, that is not the intent of the rule” then the rule should be written to accommodate such. If you do have the intention of limiting such activity, then this rule-making is far overreaching and should be completely withdrawn, to be replaced with something reasonable.
Sincerely, Jim Ewing President & CEO Great Hobbies Inc
Shearwater RC Flyers
I fully appreciate what you and Jim are doing and fully support those efforts (winter fun flies, Laurencetown Slope Fest, etc). I see current regulations as stop gap measures where before there was hardly anything preventing idiots from flying in parks over people and downtown near buildings. This will not likely stop all idiots but will certainly raise level of awareness where little was done previously to encourage Joe Bloke with his Best Buy drone
Until then, MAAC may need to sanction more events/locations. Also encourages individuals to join MAAC or at least seek their nearest RC club for info. Hopefully the pendulum will swing more justly.
Marc "Coyote" Cayouette Shearwater RC Flyers MAAC #35128 Spektrum DX9
Here is an article that was published on the CBC site. This brings up some interesting problems. This person is using a drone to monitor his wild blue berry crops. I have no idea what kind of guide lines he has to follow let alone his distance from a commercial or private airport.. As you notice when you open up this site, they are calling a fixed wing R/C airplane a drone. I have printed this article off and am going to bring it tot the MAAC meeting the end of this month.
I'm sure something can be easily worked out between the blueberry guy and TC. VNC charts used to show locations of fox farms so that full-size pilots could avoid them (the noise from aircraft would panic the foxes causing them to kill each other). Something similar could work for fixed location, commercial use.
Overall I see these interim regs as not much different from TC's handling of model rockets. Below a certain weight (and motor impulse) TC does not regulate at all. Anything over 1500g and/or bigger than G total impulse requires an SFOC and an approved RSO (and a temp CYR).