Ah, Canada—the land of maple sugar candy, world-class hockey, and moose galore. But what you might not know is that Canada is also home to an extensive drone community.
In fact, Canada is one of the best places in the world to own and operate a drone when considering the abundance of forests, mountains, and lakes that the country has to offer.
Every year, scores of drone enthusiasts flock to Canada to fly their drones. And if you play your cards right, you could be one of them.
Before you go out and start flying drones around Canada, though, there are some important rules to keep in mind. Canada isn’t a free-for-all when it comes to flying drones. That being the case, you need to know the rules so you can stay safe and out of trouble. Please note these rules apply to resident Canadian citizens. Non-residents and/or citizens may be able to comply with certain rules, using special processes not covered here.
First Up: What Is a Drone?
Let’s get our definitions straight: A drone is a type of aircraft that you can fly without a pilot. In short, a drone consists of two components: a ground-based controller and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Drones come in all sizes, from small devices for close-range use to much larger vehicles that can spend extensive amounts of time in the air.
People use drones for all types of purposes, too.
Use cases range from recreational photography and video to surveillance and even deliveries. New use cases are constantly being developed for these innovative, cutting-edge crafts.
Canadian Drone Laws: Are Drones Legal in Canada?
Canada allows drones for both recreational and commercial use, and the Transport Canada (TC) Civil Aviation regulates them.
That regulation leverages different criteria, which we’ll examine next.
Just like the United States, users can fly drones recreationally without a remote pilot license in Canada (practicing “good airmanship”), but only if the drone weighs less than 250g. Otherwise, if the drone weighs up to 25kg (~55 pounds) you need either a Basic or Advanced pilot license from Transport Canada. These drones also need to be registered with TCFailure to register your drone with TC will result in fines and penalties. Flying any drone weighing more than 25kg requires a Special Flight Operations Certificate.
As with most countries, Canada requires drone users to be mindful of where they fly their drones. For example, you cannot fly drones over critical infrastructure, stadiums, and areas that are densely populated. Canada also requires you to maintain a distance of about 32 yards (~29.2 meters) from other people, unless you have their permission to fly closer than that.
When flying a drone, you have to be mindful of height in addition to geographic location. Different heights have varying levels of control. Some heights are reserved for certain types of aircraft—like civilian planes, military and emergency response vehicles. In Canada, unlicensed recreational use is acceptable up to a height of 400 feet (121.92 meters). If you go over 400 feet (121.92 meters), that’s against the law, and fines or penalties may be right around the corner.
Conducting Commercial Drone Operations in Canada
The Canadian government doesn’t distinguish between civilian and business drone use. This is good news for professionals because it makes things a bit easier for those who want to use a drone to make some cash.
Instead of distinguishing between personal and commercial use, Canada has two classifications for drone operations: basic and advanced use.
Basic use means that you’ll be flying in an uncontrolled airspace more than 100 feet (30.48 meters) from bystanders. Further, you will not be flying your drone over anyone.
An advanced operation means that you’ll be flying in a controlled airspace, over bystanders or within 100 feet (30.48 meters) of them.
In order to legally conduct advanced drone operations in Canada, you need to register your drone with TC before you fly. What’s more, you’ll need to mark your registration number on your drone, pass the Small Advanced Exam, pass a flight review, and obtain a pilot certificate for advanced operations.
In addition, you’ll need to seek clearance from air traffic control before flying in a controlled airspace. It might sound like a tall order. But if you intend to fly a drone near people, these are hoops you’ll need to jump through.
Advanced operations also include flying your RPAS beyond visual line of sight, operations like these will require the operator obtain a Special Flight Operation Certificate (SFOC) to do so. Each SFOC has certain safety requirements that must be met!
FAQ: Drones in Canada
Are Drones Popular in Canada?
Drones are popular in Canada, with both amateur and advanced users. To date, there are over 300 licensed UAV operators in Canada. And there are many more who operate without licenses. Drones are becoming increasingly popular with each passing year, and this trend will likely continue into the future.
Can Drones Operate in Cold Weather?
Canada is known for its icy winters and subzero temperatures. So, if you intend on flying a drone in the cold, make sure that your vehicle has the features needed to handle these conditions. Otherwise, you could wind up causing extensive damage to your craft. Make sure to consult your owner’s manual before heading out with a drone into the frozen Canadian tundra. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Is Canada a Good Place to Fly a Drone?
Take our word for it: Canada is an excellent place to fly a drone. The country offers an abundance of natural scenery including stunning mountain ranges and forested areas. There’s also plenty of space to fly drones without bothering other people.
That said, you should always be mindful of wildlife when operating a drone in Canada. Safety is paramount when operating a drone. The last thing you want is to disturb birds or other wild animals. Make sure to be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Can You Fly Drones in Canada’s National Parks?
Sorry, park-goers. Recreational drone use in Canada’s national parks is prohibited by law.
If you’re caught flying a drone in one of Canada’s national parks without an approved permit, you could face a massive fine of up to $25,000 (CAD). Canada is very strict about deterring drones in their parks in order to protect wildlife and natural areas, and for good reason.
If you see a drone in a national park in Canada, its operator most likely will have a Restricted Activity Permit, which may be issued for public safety, resource management and protection, park management, or law enforcement.
Can You Fly a Drone Across the US-Canada Border?
Flying an unregistered drone across an international border is just asking for trouble. To avoid running into complications with local or national law enforcement, it’s a good idea to obtain clearance from whatever country you’re operating in.
Attempting to fly a drone across an international border could result in fines and penalties, especially if you’re transporting objects. Your drone may also be seized.
The Bottom Line
There has never been a better time to be using drones. Recent advancements in drone technology make them faster, more durable, and more reliable than ever before.
And Canada is a great place to have a drone, for their relatively lax laws and the abundance of open space to explore. Just make sure to be smart about how, where, and when you use a drone. Know your craft, know its limitations, and know the laws, and you’ll be fine.
If you do your due diligence before heading to Canada to fly a drone, you can make sure that you comply with all regulations and laws. It’s an easy way to have a stress-free drone adventure near some of the best geography the world has to offer.
To learn more about how Iris Automation is helping to improve global drone operations, check this out.