Flying a drone recreationally

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How to fly a drone or unmanned air vehicle safely

Unmanned air vehicle, model aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft system, drone. Call it what you want, but always think safety first.


Do you use a drone or unmanned air vehicle
for work or research?
Learn how the rules apply to you.

Think safety first

More and more people are flying drones for the fun of flying. Transport Canada regulates their use to keep the public and our airspace safe.

Before you take to the skies, make sure you understand the risks and learn how to avoid them.

If your aircraft weighs more than 35 kg, you must apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate.

If your aircraft weighs 35 kg or less and is used for the fun of flying only, you don’t need permission from Transport Canada. You must follow the law and fly safely - read our safety guidelines.

Fly your drone legally

You are responsible to fly your drone safely and legally. In Canada, you must:

  • Follow the rules in the Canadian Aviation Regulations
  • Respect the Criminal Code, Trespass Act, as well as all municipal, provincial, and territorial laws regarding trespassing and privacy.
  • If you put aircraft at risk, fly where you are not allowed to, or endanger anyone’s safety, you could face serious consequences, including fines and jail time.

Fly your drone safely

Transport Canada recommends you follow the basic Do’s and Don’ts for flying your drone safely and legally. Not doing so can put lives, aircraft, and property at risk.

Do
Don’t fly
  • Fly your drone during daylight and in good weather (not in clouds or fog).
  • Keep your drone in sight, where you can see it with your own eyes – not only through an on-board camera, monitor or smartphone.
  • Make sure your drone is safe for flight before take-off. Ask yourself, for example, are the batteries fully charged? Is it too cold to fly?
  • Know if you need to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate
  • Respect the privacy of others – avoid flying over private property or taking photos or videos without permission.
  • Closer than 9 km from any airport, heliport, or aerodrome.
  • Higher than 90 metres above the ground.
  • Closer than 150 metres from people, animals, buildings, structures, or vehicles.
  • In populated areas or near large groups of people, including sporting events, concerts, festivals, and firework shows.
  • Near moving vehicles, highways, bridges, busy streets or anywhere you could endanger or distract drivers.
  • Within restricted and controlled airspace, including near or over military bases, prisons, and forest fires.
  • Anywhere you may interfere with first responders.

Download the Do’s and Don’ts for flying your drone safely and legally (PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions

What laws apply to drones?

In aviation, you must always think safety first. In addition to respecting the Canadian Aviation Regulations, you must follow the rules in all acts and regulations—including the Criminal Code, as well as all municipal, provincial, and territorial laws regarding trespassing and privacy.

If you think someone has committed a criminal offense, please contact your local police department.

If you are concerned about the safe operation of an unmanned aircraft, report it to Transport Canada at services@tc.gc.ca.

How does Transport Canada enforce the regulations?

Transport Canada regulates the use of all aircraft, manned and unmanned, to keep the public and our airspace safe.

If an incident is reported to the department, one of our inspectors will verify that the operator followed the rules and used the drone safely. Local police may also verify if other laws were broken, including the Criminal Code and privacy laws. If you fly a drone for recreational purposes (for the fun of flying), it’s illegal to do anything that puts aviation safety at risk. The courts would decide on the penalty.

Does Transport Canada plan to review the current regulations for drones?

Yes. Transport Canada is exploring changes to the regulations that will address the growing popularity and economic importance of drones and integrate them safely into Canadian airspace. The department published a Notice of Proposed Amendment that highlights several proposed changes, including new flight rules, aircraft marking and registration requirements, knowledge testing, minimum age limits, and pilot permits for certain UAV operators.

The Canadian public will have the opportunity to provide comments to the proposed regulation when they are published in Canada Gazette.

Why are there so many different terms for “drones”?

You may know them as “drones”, but the aviation community and Transport Canada use different terms.

In Canada, our laws use two terms:

  • “Model aircraft,” which describes the devices usually used by hobbyists for recreational purposes.
  • “Unmanned Air Vehicle,” or UAV, which refers to unmanned aircraft more used for any non-recreational purposes (i.e. commercial, research and development, academia, first responders, etc).

Internationally the terms “unmanned aircraft system” (UAS) and “remotely piloted aircraft system” (RPAS) are used. The International Civil Aviation Organization uses “UAS” as a catch-all for all unmanned aircraft. Call it what you like - but Transport Canada expects you to operate it safely and legally.

Can I fly in a national park?

Recreational use of a UAV is prohibited in national parks. The National Parks of Canada Aircraft Access Regulations prohibits aircraft landings and take-offs in national parks except by permission of the Superintendent for park management purposes or in emergencies. Please contact Parks Canada for more information.

Can I fly my unmanned aircraft outside of Canada?

Rules for drones vary from one country to another. Always check the local aviation regulations before you fly in that country.

Should model aircraft associations comply with the safety guidelines?

Model aircraft hobbyists that belong to a recognized association, such as the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada, have a proven track record of operating safely. Following the MAAC safety guidelines and practices is considered an acceptable way of ensuring you fly safely.

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