Canadian Drone Laws 2019

The new drone laws have been introduced in Canada this year and they present a fascinating take on how the country is adopting an entirely different approach in contrast to its neighbor, U.S., in terms of drone use regulations.

A new set of rules and regulations were introduced by the Canadian government in the beginning of this year with regard to drone flights. The rules have been framed especially for devices weighing between 250 grams and 25Kgs and a special permit is required from Transport Canada for drones weighing above 25Kg. The new drone laws for Canada encompass subjects such as licensing, registration as well as airports.

In the aftermath of the chaos unraveled by drones at the UK’s Gatwick airport which led to its temporary closure due to drone flights at alarmingly close distances to the airport, some stringent rules around drones and airports have been included in the Canadian Drone Laws.

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Laws for drone flights near airports

The new laws have made it illegitimate to fly drones within 5.6Km or 3 nautical miles of airports in Canada and within 1.9Km or 1 nautical mile of heliports. Offenders can face penalties up to $1,000 while larger enterprises can be penalized up to $5,000 along with incarceration.

Approximately 135 flights close to airports and aircrafts were reported by Transport Canada in 2017.

Laws for licensing and drone registration

A pilot certificate along with drone registration and marking has been made mandatory for drone operators in Canada irrespective of the fact that whether they are intended to be used for basic or advanced purposes. The pilot will be required to qualify a test but the test for advanced pilots will be slightly complicated and will also require in-person flight review to analyze a pilot’s ability to operate their drone in a safe manner. The test in the U.S. includes multiple choice questions and is not bifurcated in basic and advanced streams.

Instead of the U.S. categorization of hobby and commercial drone pilots, Canada’s bifurcation of drone use as basic and advanced is centered on distance from onlookers and on airspace regulations.

Registration is mandatory for all drone flights and will cost $5 in terms of registration fee with Transport Canada. A unique registration number will be allotted to the registered pilots which will have to be pasted on the drone (a process similar to the registration process in the U.S.). Offenders who fly unregistered drones can have fines imposed between $1,000 and $5,000.

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Enforcement of laws

The new set of rules and regulations will be enforced not only by Transport Canada which is the Canadian equivalent for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration but also by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). This is a fascinating difference from the US where significant confusion exists amongst the local police over when and how dangerous or illegitimate drone behavior can be reported.

A report compiled by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service articulates that FAA rules cannot be enforced by the local law enforcement authorities in the US as FAA is the sole authority to enforce its regulations for UAS operations. It further goes onto state that the local law enforcement officers are typically the first to apprehend illegal or unsafe UAS behavior. The report, asserts that, it is a huge challenge for law enforcement agencies to differentiate between legal use of drones and the powers they have to apprehend the offenders when illicit or dangerous use of drones is suspected.

The new drone laws in Canada will go in effect on June 1, 2019.

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The changes in the rules and regulations are being eyed by the stakeholders in a positive perspective.

Brendan Schulman, Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs at DJI is of the view that the latest laws that have been introduced in Canada offer the right balance between ensuring public safety and extending the advantages of drone technology to Canadian companies and public at large. He believes that certain aspects of the new laws are quite imaginative including a seamless access to the online test, rules that oversee night time drone flights and regulations that prohibit drone flights near airports while not restricting drone operations anywhere near residential territories.


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