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  8. Speaking Notes for Martin J. Eley Director General, Civil Aviation to Deliver at the Unmanned Systems Canada Conference 2010

Speaking Notes for Martin J. Eley Director General, Civil Aviation to Deliver at the Unmanned Systems Canada Conference 2010


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Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today.

This event brings industry, academia, military and government together to chart the future of these systems in Canada – to recognize the tremendous potential of this technology, while recognizing the importance of safe application.

As each year passes, this technology becomes safer and more reliable. Each year there is something new to talk about as this technology evolves.

In the last five years, UAV technology has progressed at a rate surprising to many outside the industry. In some cases, they’ve gotten faster, smaller, lighter, and more powerful and, for other operational needs, they’ve gotten bigger and heavier.

More and more these technologies are used for military and civil applications. Although a surprise for some, for those in this room, this is a reality. We know that this technology has immense applications here at home to the benefit of all Canadians.

This presents a call to action for us as the regulator. Your successes require an evolving regulatory framework that promotes growth while hallmarking safety.

Canada has a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in unmanned vehicle system technology. Together, we will see this potential realized.

Before I speak on unmanned aerial systems in Canada, let me discuss the last few years in the department and the approach we’ve taken to improve safety through safety management systems.


Canada has one of the safest aviation systems in the world. In the last public confidence survey, 96 per cent of Canadians expressed confidence in Canadian aviation. Accident rates are at record lows. When an incident does occur, the Transportation Safety Board identifies causes and TC makes adjustments. But, reaction by definition means we are too late. SMS takes our focus from this reactive regulatory approach toward a proactive safety culture. It gives Transport Canada the power to go even further than ever before by measuring how well the industry proactively addresses risks to safety. This is the natural evolution of aviation.

We knew that we could not reduce aviation accidents by technological improvements alone. To improve our record, we had to target the human factor; we had to make safety a culture and proactive response a mindset throughout the industry.

In addition to traditional surveillance, inspectors evaluate the safety systems within companies. Air operators go beyond meeting traditional checks and balances and ensure that they tailor safety and risk management strategies to their operations. Passengers are well served by this evolved safety culture.

Where an operator has a higher risk profile, which could be due to such factors as the turnover rate of key personnel, we will have the ability to focus on this company through enhanced surveillance to proactively remove potential risks. The method will ensure that resources are used where most appropriate and oversight is operating at its optimal level.

Under SMS, our inspectors have increased oversight capabilities. When they inspect a company, they will determine the effectiveness of its safety system, verify its regulatory compliance, and analyze its corrective actions, if applicable. Through this systems approach, we have expanded and evolved our surveillance activities. Our oversight will detect risk in the system, whether that is through SMS assessments or traditional inspections.

We are going deeper into an air operator’s operations; we are interviewing employees, managers and CEOs; we are asking them how they assess risk; we are broadening our scope to address risk at every level before it reaches air travellers.

Once our inspectors flag a negligent safety violation, the type of action we take can include oral counselling, fines, or even suspension or cancellation of the company’s certificate.

SMS also requires a company to have a non-punitive internal reporting system. Companies will also have procedures for reporting and collecting data, making progress reports, and evaluating the results of corrective actions. Our inspectors will ensure that companies implement and enforce these standards.

We are working hard everyday to refine our practices and evolve an already exceptional air safety system. As we advance our safety practices, we are also cognisant that these practices need to accommodate changes to the aviation system. Safety is not static.

Therefore, while we improve the safety of the aviation system, as it exists today, we also analyze the trends and forecast what that system may look like next year, in five years or in fifteen.

I wanted to take the time to talk about SMS because I believe a sound safety culture is critical to the successful evolution of UAV systems.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles present a shift in traditional airspace convention. For us to be successful, we have to work in congruence with the starts, stops and shifts of the aviation system. In the next five years, as UAV technology and operational requirements advance, we will work alongside this community to ensure safety and growth work hand in hand.


Applications for UAV Special Flight Operations Certificates are increasing annually. To add, the content within these certification applications is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of UAV design, operational complexity and needs.

In this context, the regulator cannot rely on placing checks in pre-determined boxes. Instead, Transport Canada conducts individual assessments for each operation before it issues a SFOC.

Today, safety oversight means controlling risk; a principle that states we can reduce the likelihood of an incident happening. This process proactively identifies what can go wrong, how it can happen, what will be the consequences and what we need to do to reduce the probability of occurrence. This is the natural evolution of safety oversight. This proactive approach will guide all operations in the air: manned or unmanned. It will guide the future of UAV operations in Canada.

As such, prior to issuing a certificate, we review the risks to determine if the applicant can reasonably conduct the operation safely and if the applicant is familiar with the regulations. Operators must be able to demonstrate the predictability and reliability of their UAVs.

Our intent is to ensure the safety of the public and the protection of other users of the airspace.

With this maxim in mind, we will evolve the existing regulatory framework. Some current conditions are not intended to be permanent prohibitions. As knowledge and experience increases, and as unmanned systems technology evolves, we will revisit some of these conditions.

However, our intent is to do more than tweak the existing structure. For this industry to realize its potential, we need a regulatory framework that first ensures public safety and second enables the development of the UAV sector.

I would like to talk about the steps that have brought us to where we are today and how those steps will move us forward.


In September 2007, after nearly a year of discussions, a joint government-industry working group published a report concerning the next steps for UAV regulatory activity in Canada.

Many in this room provided tremendous insight into the existing UAV issues and legislation. This report also provided fundamental guidance for our efforts moving forward.

For example, this group recommended reviewing the SFOC process. In February 2008, Transport Canada invited UVS Canada to participate in the SFOC Review Working Group. This partnership led to Transport Canada publishing a Staff Instruction for inspectors that would guide them in the issuance of these certificates.

The benefits were twofold. Inspectors received the information, procedures and guidelines necessary to process an application and prepare a SFOC, and certificate applicants received guidance for submitting an application. Applicants also received insight into the certification process.

Once again, these efforts provided essential guidance for our efforts moving forward.

In 2009, TC set out to form a third working group. The intent of this group is to build upon the recommendations of its predecessor and determine what we need to do to safely integrate routine UAV operations into Canadian airspace. What’s more, as many of your may know, this is a Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council Working Group. This means that we have brought together members from across the aviation community – from Unmanned Systems Canada to DND to NAV CANADA to COPA.

This is the right way to move forward. It brings this community together to assess and recommend potential regulatory changes through joint rulemaking activities.

As such, the CARAC UAV Systems Program Design Working Group will recommend amendments to the existing framework and propose new regulations and standards to balance UAV mission requirements while protecting the public and other airspace users.

I have to caution that this process takes time. I cannot guarantee changes tomorrow or the day after. As you are well aware, the aviation community presents many differing viewpoints. We need to take time to listen to each of these and judge a new proposal based on its contribution to safety and efficiency.

Nevertheless, we are committed to determining what needs to be done in the coming years to promote the growth and the safety of the UAV industry. Your expertise during this process will be invaluable as we consider how to integrate this class of aerial vehicle in a traditionally manned aircraft environment. If we can identify the risks, we can manage them without relying too heavily on airspace segregation.

For those that do not know, I am pleased to say this working group held its first meeting two weeks ago. The objectives of the meeting included ensuring a common understanding of the 2007 Final Report, reviewing the group’s Terms of Reference and deliverables, and establishing a classification system for UAVs.

Three subgroups will begin work in late November. The first deliverable is addressing the requirements associated with the operation of all categories of UAV systems where the UAV maximum take-off weight does not exceed 25 kilograms and the UAV is operated within visual line-of-sight under VFR conditions. It is anticipated that the main Working Group will receive reports from the subgroups before June 2011.


We are committed to moving forward with the development of a regulatory framework to enable development of the UAV sector. When we take the next step, safety will be the number one priority.

By working together, we will be able to advance and evolve this sector in Canada. I look forward to making progress in the next year.

Thank you.

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