Transport Canada recently introduced two new exemptions to
simplify commercial umanned air vehicle (UAV) operations and safely
integrate them into Canadian airspace.
UAV operations are regulated by Transport Canada under the
Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) and the
Aeronautics Act. The CARs define a UAV as a
"power-driven aircraft, other than a model aircraft, that is
designed to fly without a human operator on board".
"Model aircraft" under the CARs is defined as only
those unmanned aircraft weighing less than 35 kg and being used for
Previously, all UAVs, as defined under CARs, required a Special
Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) for their operation, under
Section 602.41 of CARs. A SFOC authorizes the operation of a
UAV for a specific mission and within a specific geographic area.
The application for a SFOC can be a complex and lengthy
process, but Section 603.66 of the CARs prohibits flying a UAV
without complying with SFOC requirements. The failure to
obtain an SFOC can lead to fines – up to $5,000 for an
individual and $25,000 for a company.
The two new exemptions allow certain UAVs to operate without
SFOCs. These new exemptions apply to very small UAVs,
weighing less than 2 kg. They also apply to small UAVs,
weighing between 2-25 kg, and with a maximum calibrated airspeed of
87 knots or less. These exemptions will, subject to certain
conditions, allow these UAVs to be operated away from built-up
areas, controlled airspace, aerodromes and other restricted
This development will be very welcome to commercial operators
who desire to use UAVs that meet the above-described requirements.
However, the exemptions have a number of criterion that must
be met, and conditions that must be followed carefully. The
penalties described above may be assessed against individuals who
should be operating under a SFOC, and are not. Additionally,
operators must keep in mind their duty to operate UAVs safely.
The Criminal Code of Canada describes several
offences involving the dangerous operation of aircraft and
endangering the safety of other aircraft. The penalties for
these offences may include monetary penalties and/or jail time.
The exemptions are currently set to expire on December 21,
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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