Proposed rules for drones in Canada

Learn the requirements that will apply to you when Canada’s new regulations for unmanned aircraft systems, more commonly known as drones, become law.

On this page

Current rules

Until the proposed regulations become law, recreational users must comply with the rules in the revised Interim Order (Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft).

Non-recreational users must continue to seek authorization from Transport Canada to operate through a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC), unless they meet the strict safety conditions in our exemptions.

Overview of the proposed changes

We are proposing new regulations for drones that:

  • weigh 250 g to 25 kg
  • are operated within visual-line-of-sight, and
  • are used for any purpose (fun, work or research)

The proposed new regulations are easy-to-follow, flexible and balanced, while supporting innovation and safe recreational use.

The proposed rules introduce three categories of drones. Each category is based on the size of the device, the pilot, and where the drone is operated. New requirements are specific to each category:

Very small drone operations

Very small drone more than 250 g to 1 kg

Most recreational users will fit into this category. The rules that apply are easy to understand and follow.

Pilots must be 14 years old or older and will be required to:

Limited operations (rural)

Small drone more than 1 kg to 25 kg

This category is for users operating in rural areas (e.g., agricultural purposes, wildlife surveys, natural resources).

Pilot must be 16 years old or older and will be required to:

  • mark their device with their name and contact information;
  • pass a basic knowledge test;
  • have liability insurance; and
  • fly at least:
    • 5.6 km from airports
    • 1.9 km from heliports
    • 150 m from open-air assemblies of people (i.e. outdoor concert)
    • 76 m from people, vehicles, vessels
    • 1 km from built-up areas
Complex operations (urban)

Small drone more than 1 kg to 25 kg

This category is for users who intend to fly in urban areas, within controlled airspace or close to anywhere that airplanes, helicopters and floatplanes land and take off.

Pilot must be 16 years or older and will be required to:

You will no longer need a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) if your drone weighs 250 g to 25 kg and you operate it within visual-line-of-sight.

However, you will need to apply for an SFOC for any operations that are not covered by the proposed regulations. For example, you will need an SFOC if you intend to operate a drone out of sight or if your drone weighs more than 25 kg.

Public consultation

The proposed rules on this page were for consultation only. They are not in effect and are subject to change. We’re reviewing all comments we received as part of the Canada Gazette, Part I consultation process and via the Let’s talk drones online discussion forum.

We’ll publish the final regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II in 2018. The exact publication date is undecided. In the meantime, please follow the rules for recreational drones or get permission to fly your drone if you fly for work or research.

Key concepts

Knowledge test and pilot permit

Under the proposed rules, pilots of very small drones or small drones for limited operations will have to pass an online examination to ensure they have enough knowledge to operate safely.

Pilots who intend to fly in the complex operations category — which includes flying in urban areas or within controlled airspace or close to airports — will need to pass a written knowledge test to get a pilot permit that is specific to small drones. The test may take place at a Transport Canada office or at a ground or flight training school we authorize to deliver exams for us.

The cost of the test has not yet been determined, but would be consistent with the Aviation Safety Regulatory Fees in the Canadian Aviation Regulations. There may also be additional administrative fees for third party test providers.


Only operators who intend to fly in urban areas, within controlled airspace or close to airports will need to register their drone.

Since the complex operations category is most similar to manned aviation, there will be fee for registering drones operated in this category. The fee is not yet set.


We are proposing two ways of marking your drone, depending on the category you operate under:

  • Very small drone and limited operations categories: Mark your drone with basic owner information (name, address, contact information);
  • Complex operations category: Register your drone and mark it with the registration marks we provide

Liability insurance

All operators who fly a drone that weighs more than 250 g for any purpose will need to be insured through a liability insurance provider for at least $100,000.

You can purchase insurance from an insurance provider who covers the risks of public liability, as described in subsection 606.02 (8) of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs).

Some general, home or business liability insurance policies cover limited aviation-related activities. It is your responsibility, as the operator, to confirm your insurance coverage. Additionally, recreational users could also be insured through joining an association such as the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada. All aircraft in Canada must have liability insurance to protect the public at large.

Useful terms to know

Drone and unmanned aircraft system (UAS)

There are a number of different terms for this technology, and they are often used interchangeably. Transport Canada uses the term “drone” when referring to any type of unmanned aircraft system. In the proposed new regulations out for public comment, we use the term unmanned aircraft system to align with international regulatory authorities.

Visual-line-of-sight (VLOS)

Visual-line-of-sight means keeping your device in sight at all times. This means not flying into clouds or fog, or behind trees, buildings or other (even partial) obstructions.

Built-up area

For the purpose of the new regulations, the term built-up area means the populated or developed area of a locality, including a city, a town, a village, or a hamlet.


An aerodrome is a place where aircraft take off and land. This can include water and gravel, grass, and paved airstrips. Aerodromes include airports, heliports and seaplane bases, or anywhere that aircraft take off and land.

Design standard

The design standard for a drone aims to improve product reliability, which minimizes the risk of accidents in more complex operating environments. The design standard:

  • applies to drones operating in “complex areas”, such as over urban settings or near an airport;
  • sets requirements for flight tests and documenting technical specifications; and
  • includes maintenance specifications for operators, to ensure they keep the device in an airworthy condition and minimize the risk of failures

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