New Drone regulations in effect for Canada

SFOC exemption registration formAs of December 22, 2016 and until December 31st, 2019 or whenever new regulations are enacted, ALL drone flights are subject to a change in the existing regulations.

Two exemptions still exist for drones of up to 1Kg and from 1Kg to 25Kg in weight, but mandatory training requirements are now in force for pilot training and registration with Transport Canada is Mandatory to comply with these exemptions.

These changes allow for existing users of Drones to become legal before the major changes to the regulations later in 2017, and at the same time allow Transport Canada to enforce the current regulations.   From Dec. 22nd 2016, ANYONE flying a drone of ANY size, in conjunction with their business, without an Special Flight Operations Certificate, OR having first registered with Transport Canada for an exemption with be breaking the law.  This is a federal offence and is subject to serious Administrative Monetary Penalties (a.k.a Fined until proven innocent), legal fines and or imprisonment.

In order to register for an exemption to fly a drone potential pilots (that is, BEFORE you fly) will need to fill in a form that is web accessible.   You can find the form here.

The changes to the existing regulations for operating a Drone under exemptions can be found here for drones weighing 1Kg or less, and here for drones weighing 1Kg to 25Kg.   Remember the weight of the drone is the all-up take-off weight, so if you add a camera to the drone or any other equipment, everything the leaves the ground with the drone must be weighed to determine it’s weight.

Brief overview of changes.

To fly a drone, under an exemption, for a drone of up to 1Kg

Potential pilots now have to pre-register with Transport Canada using the exemption registration form.  In addition the pilot conducting operations under an exemption MUST have the appropriate knowledge, training on the UAV system and qualifications for the area and type of operation, as referred to in Transport Canada Advisory Circular 600-004.    Essentially this says, pilots will need to understand airspace classification and structure, be familiar with meteorological and (Notice to Airmen) NOTAM reporting services, interpretation of aeronautical charts and the Canada Flight Supplement (CFS) and Canada Water Aerodrome Supplement (CWAS) as well as applicable content of the CARs.

The Canada Flight Supplement (CFS) is a joint civil/military publication. It provides information on Canadian and North Atlantic aerodromes and is to be used as a reference for the planning and safe conduct of air operations.  The CFS contains:

  • tables, legends and associated information pertinent to interpretation of the supplement
  • data and sketches for Canadian aerodromes and heliports and selected aerodromes in the North Atlantic
  • information for flight planning, characteristics of airspace, chart updating, flight restrictions, IFR routes, airway intersections and chart distributors
  • data for radio navigation aids and communication facilities
  • flight procedures and data, including sections on procedures for flight in the USA, North Atlantic and Alaska, air/ground communications and military training routes/areas
  • emergency procedures.

The CFS is updated every 56 days and is available from NAV Canada at the cost of $29.


The Canada Water Aerodrome Supplement (CWAS) provides tabulated data and graphical information in support of the Canadian VFR charts. It contains an aerodrome/facilities directory of all water aerodromes shown on Canadian VFR charts and lists communications stations data, radio aids and other data supplemental to the VFR charts.

The CWAS is updated periodically and is available from NAV Canada at the cost of $45.

Applicable content of the Canadian Ar Regulations (CAR) can be researched here.  It is up to each pilot to ensure they are aware of the current CAR.

Pilot knowledge training could be provided by an existing flight training facility (manned or unmanned), an online course, a self-administered training program, or some combination of these options. Training facilities and online courses should provide certificates or letters of completion. For self-administered training, it is essential to document the knowledge items covered, the time spent on each item, the references used, and the date of completion of all items.

To fly a drone, under an exemption, for a drone of 1Kg up to 25Kg

Potential pilots now have to pre-register with Transport Canada using the exemption registration form.  In addition the pilot conducting operations must  have successfully completed a pilot ground school program that provides instruction on the following subject areas:

  • airspace classification and structure;
  • meteorological and NOTAM reporting services;interpretation of aeronautical charts and the Canada Flight Supplement; and
  • applicable content of the Canadian Aviation Regulations;

    In addition pilot conducting operations under this exemption must be appropriately trained on the UAV system and qualified for the area and type of operation as referred to in Transport Canada Advisory Circular 600-004.


While it might appear that the requirements above are similar, the difference is that for drones over 1Kg and under 25kg, the pilot is mandated to have undergone ground school training.  This is required even if you wish to fly the drone under an exemption.  The ground training will require that you cover all the topics required in the 1kg or less category, but will have to have a certificate to prove you have been so trained. 

Risks for non-compliance

Under the exemptions in place prior to December 22nd, 2016, the likelihood of the police being able to enforce the regulations was slim.  A number of loopholes existed to allow many drone pilots to escape prosecution.   The new changes put the onus on the pilot to have, at hand, during a flight all the relevant documentation that proves validity of an exemption as well as proof of the other requirements as part of a flight.  The penalties have not changed.  As Transport Canada states on their site:  “Before you take to the skies, make sure you understand the rules and follow them. Not doing so could put lives at risk and cost you up to $25,000 in fines and/or jail time.”

drone_aircraft-near-hitThe most important factor that police can pick up on is a drone that is flying within 9Km of an aerodrome.  For the purposes of the regulations an aerodrome is ANY registered area that is used for take-off or landing of any registered aircraft in Canada.  This includes ANY Airports, Heliports, or Official landing pads (such as a Helicopter landing pad at Hospitals or large corporate offices)   The most current airport list can be found here.  Again, it is the pilots responsibility to ensure they are aware of the locations of these aerodromes.  

Also remember,  Aviation regulations consider a “near-miss” as anything flying within 500 feet.  While to you standing on the ground the gap between your drone and another aircraft may appear to be OK , to the pilot of an aircraft flying at speeds in excess of 140MPH anything that causes them to take any sort of evasive action, or of cause of concern, is seen as more of a “near-hit”, and a report will be filed.  If the “near-hit” can be traced back to you flying a drone, the penalties will be at the top end of the scale. 

Be responsible when choosing to fly a drone and respect the law.  These regulations are in place to keep everyone safe.

Readily available, ready to fly drones with cameras

Under 1Kg

Protocol Dronium III Quadcopter Drone with Camera (130g)
Zerotech Dobby Pocket Quadcopter Drone with Camera (200g)
UDI RC U818A HD with camera (340g)
Yuneec Breeze 4K Quadcopter Drone with Camera (390g)
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Power Edition Quadcopter Drone with Camera (420g)
Parrot Bebop 2 drone  (500g)
Traxxas Aton Quadcopter Drone with Camera Mount (632g)
Protocol Galileo Stealth Quadcopter Drone with Camera  (650g)
LiteHawk FOCUS Quadcopter Drone with Camera (680g)
DJI Mavic Pro Quadcopter Drone with 4K UHD Camera (743g)
Traxxas Aton Plus Quadcopter Drone with 2-Axis Gimbal (790g)

Over 1Kg Under 25Kg

Syma X8G 2.4g 4ch 6 Axis Gyro RTF RC Drone Quadcopter With 8MP 1080P HD Camera (1.6Kg)
Yuneec Typhoon H Hexacopter Drone (1.6Kg)
Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K Quadcopter Drone with Camera (1.7Kg)
DJI Inspire 1 RAW Quadcopter Drone (2.94Kg)
DJI Phantom 3 4K Quadcopter Drone with Camera (4.5Kg)

For more drone comparisons go here