Canada: New Drone Regulations Expected From Transport Canada In 2016

Last Updated: January 7 2016
Article by Kathryn McGoldrick

In May 2015, Transport Canada sought comments from aviation stakeholders across Canada regarding a Notice of Proposed Amendment on Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones. For some time, Transport Canada has intended to implement new regulations for certain types of UAVs and their operations. These will replace the current "exemption" scheme, which was intended to be a temporary solution while Transport Canada introduced more rigorous safety requirements and created greater awareness of UAV operators' legal obligations.

Presently, the Canadian Aviation Regulations ("CARs") require that a UAV operator obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate ("SFOC") from Transport Canada. However, there are certain exemptions to these requirements, the applicability of which depends on two main factors: the weight of the UAV and whether the UAV is being used for recreational or non-recreational (including research) purposes.


If a UAV is 35 kg or under and is being used solely for recreational purposes, a SFOC is not required and there are no specific regulatory requirements, but the UAV must be flown "safely and legally". Transport Canada has published a list of guidelines for flying safely, which include flying during daylight and in good weather only, keeping the UAV in the operator's line of sight, not flying within 9 km of an airport, higher than 90 m above the ground, or within 150 m of people, animals, buildings, or vehicles. The operator must also comply with all other Canadian laws, including the Criminal Code and privacy law.

If the UAV is heavier than 35 kg, the operator must apply for a SFOC, regardless of the type of operation. If it weighs 35 kg or less and is being used for a non-recreational purpose, the applicable requirements depend on the weight. If it weighs between 25 and 35 kg, a SFOC must be obtained. If it weighs 25 kg or less, the operator must comply with the applicable Transport Canada exemption, or else an SFOC must be obtained.


There are two weight-based categories of exemption for non-recreational UAVs: one applicable to those 2 kg and under, and the other to those between 2.1 kg and 25 kg. Both categories require that the operator obtain at least $100,000 in liability insurance, and that the UAV be flown in direct line of sight and during daylight only. The UAV must also be flown no higher than 300 feet above ground level and at least 5 nautical miles away from any aerodrome or "built-up area". There are also some differences, including with respect to the minimum distance from persons, animals, or structures, as well as with respect to pilot training – operators in the higher weight category must have successfully completed a ground school program. Persons wishing to take advantage of these exemptions should carefully review all applicable requirements.

Proposed Amendments

The present exemptions remain in force until the earlier of December 21, 2016, or the date on which they are cancelled by the Minister of Transport.

The Notice of Proposed Amendment discloses the intention of Transport Canada to move toward a different approach for regulating smaller UAVs – one that is more rigorous and based on the risk level posed by the operation rather than whether it is recreational or non-recreational (with a potential exception for model aircraft flown within a recognized aeromodelling organization). The new regulations will apply to all UAVs with a maximum takeoff weight of 25 kg or less, while larger UAVs will continue to require an SFOC.

Transport Canada has proposed two primary categories for UAVs weighing 25 kg or less: 1) "complex operations with small UAVs" – operations in and around urban or built-up areas or close to aerodromes; and 2) "limited operations with small UAVs" – operations limited to remote areas. It has also proposed a third potential category, "operations with very small UAVs", which would be based on weight or an alternative approach such as kinetic energy.

Other than the ability of UAVs in the "complex operations" category to operate in closer proximity to built-up areas and aerodromes, a primary difference between the requirements for the "complex operations" and "limited operations" categories is pilot training. For all operations, Transport Canada has proposed that UAV pilots be considered a "pilot" as defined by the Aeronautics Act and the CARs. However, operators in "complex operations" would be required to obtain a "pilot permit". Suggested requirements for a pilot permit include a minimum age of 14 (with adult supervision) or 16 (without adult supervision), a category 4 medical certificate, successful completion of a course of instruction in specific aviation knowledge areas and a written examination, practical training on the specific category of UAV, and demonstrated competency in the performance of normal and emergency procedures.

In contrast, a pilot operating a UAV in either the "limited operations" or "very small UAVs" category would not be required to obtain a pilot permit or medical certificate, and there would be no minimum age requirement provided there is adult supervision. However, the operator would be required to demonstrate aeronautical knowledge in specific subject areas, such as airspace classification and structure.

The other principal difference between the three proposed categories is with respect to marking, registration, and identification. Transport Canada has proposed that UAVs in both the "limited" and "complex" operations categories be required to be marked and registered. They would be required to have a unique series of four-letter registration marks, and to be registered in accordance with the requirements for aircraft registration in the CARs. These include that the registrant be at least 16 years of age and a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and, if the operator is a corporation, it must meet certain requirements of Canadian ownership and/or incorporation.

Operators of very small UAVs would not be required to register their aircraft, but would be required to have a permanent marking for identification, including the name of the pilot and his or her contact information, on the UAV.

Consultation on the Notice of Proposed Amendment closed in August 2015. Transport Canada has reported that it received approximately 100 submissions, including from businesses that offer services related to UAVs, private citizens, provincial and federal governments, academic institutions, and even its own employees. The comments in these submissions are presently being analyzed, and Transport Canada intends to publish draft regulations in 2016. At that time, there will be an opportunity to provide additional comments before the regulations become final.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Kathryn McGoldrick
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions