On June 1, 2019, the Canadian landscape for drone operations changed. Their uses are as varied as their names (drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, remotely piloted aerial systems, RPAS, among others — collectively, Drone or Drones), but a Drone's use no longer determines the regulatory regime. Instead, the new regulations apply to all Drones operating within a visual line of sight (VLOS) that have a maximum take-off weight of at least 250 grams (0.55 pounds), but not more than 25 kilograms (55 pounds).

The aim of the new regulations was, in part, to streamline the registration process and more closely align Drone regulations with that of manned aircraft regulations. The new rules are designed to be commensurate with the level of risk of a Drone operation, based on the complexity of the operation. As such, within the weight category, the rules are further broken down into two types: basic operation and advanced operation.

For basic operations, an operator must be at least 14 years of age and have successfully completed an online exam and recurrency training. For advanced operations, an operator must be at least 16 years of age, have successfully completed an online exam (which is more stringent than the basic exam) and have completed a flight review and recurrency training.

In addition to the requirements for the operator, the new regulations also feature a requirement to register Drones with Transport Canada Aviation (TCA). Following an application to TCA, a certificate of registration, including a registration number, is generated via an online automated system. The certificate is issued to the registered owner (i.e., the operator) of the Drone, and the registration number must be affixed to the Drone before it can be operated.

While the new regulations do not require manufacturers to provide information about the laws surrounding operations of Drones, they do require manufacturers to declare that the Drone has met Standard 922 – RPAS Safety Assurance (Standard) if the Drone is to be used for advanced operations. The Standard outlines the necessary safety limits of the Drone in order to fly in and around people.

TCA is primarily responsible for enforcing the Aeronautics Act and its regulations, including the new regulations. A breach of the new regulations could result in a fine of up to C$5,000 for individuals and C$25,000 for corporations. This means that before you test out the Drone your grandma bought you for your birthday, be sure you are compliant with the new regulations! A Toronto Raptor fan learned this the hard way and incurred a $2,750 fine for flying a drone in contravention of the regulations during the epic victory parade for the Raptors earlier this spring.

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© 2019 Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP.

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