Canada: Drones - A New Frontier Of Privacy And Liability Is Taking Flight

Last Updated: November 10 2016
Article by Jennifer Davis and Cynthia Aoki

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles ("UAVs"), are becoming more prevalent both as a recreational activity and as a tool for businesses. As UAVs are increasingly being used by hobbyists and businesses alike, the legal landscape of privacy and liability will change.

UAVs are piloted remotely and have a wide range of models, spanning from simple recreational aircraft that have a relatively small flying radius to large complex units that can carry cargo over long distances. Some UAVs have been developed to be 'autonomous aircraft', where technology has advanced to a point where these UAVs can make their own decisions, communicate with other UAVs and aircraft, determine their own flight paths, and even coordinate logistics.

When and Where Can I Fly?

Aeronautics falls under the scope of the Federal Government and, as such, Transport Canada has primary jurisdiction over UAV regulation, which is found under the Canadian Aviation Regulations. The Transport Canada website is an excellent resource for general UAV information, including flight restrictions.

If your UAV weighs 35 kg or less and is used only for recreational purposes, you are not required to obtain special permission to fly. However, if you are using a UAV for business or research purposes or it exceeds the 35 kg weight limit, you will be required to obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate ("SFOC"). This Certificate acts as a roadmap for how and where you can use your UAV. SFOCs do not come in a standard form and are tailored to each individual request. Generally, an applicant will be required to provide information such as the purpose of the UAV operation, the date and time parameters for the UAV operation, a detailed operations plan, including contingencies and security details, and details of insurance coverage.

Applications that have potentially serious consequences or that violate flight restrictions must be more comprehensive and in-depth. For example, UAVs operating in areas with large crowds of people have the potential to cause bodily harm. Furthermore, UAVs operating near power lines, airports, or other essential infrastructure have the potential to cause catastrophic events (e.g., fires and plane crashes).

Transport Canada has set out UAV flight restrictions where, unless dictated otherwise in the SFOC, you cannot fly your UAV:

  • Closer than 9 kilometres to any aerodrome (airport, heliport, helipad, etc.)
  • Higher than 90 metres above the ground
  • Closer than 150 metres to people, animals, buildings, structures, or vehicles
  • In populated areas or near large groups of people, including sporting events, concerts, festivals and fireworks shows
  • Near moving vehicles, highways, bridges, busy streets, or anywhere you could endanger or distract drivers
  • Within restricted and controlled airspace, including near or over military bases, prisons, and forest fire
  • Anywhere you may interfere with first responders

These restrictions may be altered or lifted depending on the parameters of your SFOC. If you are flying your UAV recreationally, you must ensure you adhere to the above guidelines. Otherwise, you risk up to $25,000 in fines and/or jail time. In addition to the UAV regulations, operators must comply with other applicable laws and regulations, including the Criminal Code.

Possible Sources of Liability?

As mentioned above, breaching UAV regulations can come with hefty fines and potential jail time. However, those are not the only laws UAV operators should be concerned about. As technology continues to expand, there is an increased risk for civil liability of UAV operators, including trespass, negligence, and privacy breaches, any of which can lead to damages arising from private lawsuits.

The Criminal Code is applicable if a UAV is operated in a manner that is dangerous to the public: section 249. If your UAV causes injury or death, further sections of the Criminal Code may be applicable. In Alberta, the Trespass to Premises Act and Petty Trespass Act provide additional sources of liability for entering certain types of property without express permission of the owner.

The advent of new technology allows cameras, infrared sensors, and other means of capturing imaging from angles that previously were not possible. While this ushers in a new era of development and progress, it brings with it concerns over privacy breaches. UAVs can breach privacy expectations by taking photographs and videos in circumstances where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The seminal case of Jones v. Tsige, in the Ontario Court of Appeal , recognized the existence of the tort of invasion of privacy: "intrusion upon seclusion". Operators should be especially careful if they are using UAVs to capture images that will be published or distributed.

To avoid potential liability for breaches of privacy and trespass, UAVs should not be operated in circumstances where they may be considered to be trespassing or, if UAVs are capturing images over long distances that would breach an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy.

How Do I Protect Myself?

UAVs have the potential to cause property damage and bodily injury. You will want to ensure that the operation of a UAVis covered under personal property in your homeowners insurance and is not excluded within the definition of 'aircraft.' Insurance companies are starting to craft, and some currently hold, specific liability policies to provide coverage for the use of UAVs. This liability coverage is required before an SFOC will be issued. Before assuming your UAV is covered under your business or home insurance, it will be necessary to review your policy to ensure there are no exclusions.

When operating an UAV, make sure that you are adhering to the flight restrictions provided in your SFOC and ensure that you are complying with all applicable regulations. If you are taking photographs or imaging, operators should ensure the proper consents are in place so that there are no privacy breaches. Also ensure that you do not operate in or over property without the permission of the owner.

We would be happy assist you with ensuring you have the appropriate liability coverage in place, applying for SFOCs, and providing advice and representation relating to UAVs and liability. Have a safe flight!

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.

Jennifer Davis
Cynthia Aoki
Events from this Firm
19 Dec 2017, Webinar, Calgary, Canada

McLennan Ross previously conducted a webinar on June 6, 2017 about the passage of Bill 17, during which we reviewed the changes to the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code. During that webinar, we identified a number of issues which would depend upon the language of the Regulations, which had not yet been developed.

21 Nov 2018, Webinar, Calgary, Canada

Changes to the Employment Standards Code this year increased the number of unpaid leaves to which employees are entitled for the purpose of allowing them to deal with family related issues.

In association with
Related Topics
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