In a wide range of industries across North America, drones
and drone technology are being embraced for commercial purposes.
The Federal Aviation Administration in the United
States estimates that millions of recreational drones will be
in the air over the next few years, and it's only a matter of
time before commercial drones become commonplace too. For example, many farmers are currently
using drones to detect crop disease and identify where to apply
pesticides. Oil and gas companies are also making use of the eyes
in the sky for pipeline surveillance. And now, the practice of
using drones/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the construction
and real estate industries is becoming increasingly popular. Some
companies are using drones to monitor construction crews and track
the pace of construction projects, while various real estate
agencies are using drone technology and video recording to market,
maintain and inspect properties for sale.
Using drone technology for commercial purposes, however, is
not without its risks. Last Fall the Federal Aviation
Administration in the United States proposed a $1.9-million fine on an aerial photography
firm for unauthorized drone flights. In Canada, a man from
Montreal was fined $1,000 for using his drone on
behalf of a real estate agent. Regulators on both sides of the
border have begun to set parameters around the use of these flying
robots, but for many users the regulations remain unclear.
We'll continue to monitor regulatory developments in this
rapidly growing field over the coming months, and we'll keep
you informed through a series of articles as new issues
arise. In the meantime, if you're looking to invest in
drone technology for commercial purposes, here's a brief
overview of the five things you should know before taking off:
1) You may need to apply for a special flight operations
If your drone is over thirty-five (35) kg (77.2 lbs) or is being
used for commercial purposes that are not covered by exemption
conditions, you must apply for a free-of-charge Special Flight
Operations Certificate (SFOC) from the Minister of Transport. This
certificate outlines the conditions under which a flight may be
operated and typically will authorize flight for a predetermined
purpose in a specific geographical area.
2) You must know the regulations that apply to your use.
Unmanned aircraft in Canada are regulated based on purpose and
weight. Civilian use of drones is regulated by
Transport Canada through the Aeronautics Act and the
Canadian Aviation Regulations (CAR). Some
recreational flying of drones under thirty-five (35) kg requires no
special Transport Canada permit; however, commercial users
typically need an SFOC. There are conditions under which commercial
drones may be exempt from requiring a permit. Always make sure you
know which rules apply to your flight before taking off.
3) You must ensure that you are insured.
Your general insurance policies likely do not cover aviation
activity, so before taking off you should be sure to acquire
sufficient liability insurance. Transport Canada requires that a
person operating under an exemption must have at least $100,000 in
liability insurance coverage. Failure to do so could result in
penalties. Commercial users must also have adequate insurance as a
condition of the SFOC.
4) You must be aware of your surroundings.
Before conducting a fly-by of your commercial property or
construction site, consider whether your location is appropriate
for flying a drone. Some properties may simply not be suitable for
drone use. These could include densely populated areas, properties
close to airspace, and properties close to busy or crowded public
5) You must be familiar with applicable statutes that restrict
drone use in your region.
In addition to the Criminal Code, there are other laws
and provincial statutes that may apply to commercial and private
drone users, including trespassing and privacy laws. If you are
considering using a drone in Canada you should be aware of the
Private Information Protection and Electronic Documents
Act (PIPEDA) and how it may apply to your intended use. Some
flights might require consent depending on the type of personal
information that may be collected or shared about individuals in
the process. Transport Canada is expected to implement new regulations within the year. Always
be sure you are up-to-date on these regulations and how they apply
to you and your drone to avoid being grounded by the authorities.
When in doubt, consider obtaining legal advice to help you smoothly
navigate this new, evolving arena.
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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Russell v. Township of Georgian Bay provides a useful reminder of the fact that while municipal officials sometimes appear to hold all of the cards in disputes with home owners, that is not always the case.
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