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
- Overview of the proposed changes
- Public consultation
- Key concepts
- Useful terms to know
- Current rules
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 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:
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:
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:
- hold a pilot permit that is specific to small drones;
- have liability insurance;
- register and mark their device with a unique identification Transport Canada will provide;
- operate a drone that meets a design standard;
- follow a set of flight rules;
- get approval from air traffic control when flying in controlled airspace or near aerodromes; and
- fly at least:
- 150 m from open-air assemblies of people (i.e. outdoor concert) unless at least 90 m high
- 30 m from people, vehicles, vessels
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.
We’ll publish the final regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II in 2018. The exact publication date is undecided.
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
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 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.
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.
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
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).
- Read about current rules and guidelines for Flying your drone safely and legally
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.
- Learn about Getting permission to fly your drone