Like conventional aircraft pilots, Canadian drone operators are obliged to report occurrences involving their drones to the Transportation Safety Board (the "TSB"). The TSB is Canada's independent agency charged with investigating aviation occurrences in order to make causal findings and develop recommendations to avoid or reduce future safety issues.

Shortly after the new Part IX of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (the "CARs") came into force in June 2019, the TSB issued a memorandum setting out the reporting requirements for occurrences involving drones, entitled " Occurrence Reporting guidelines for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems", (the "Guidelines").

This blog post will discuss the mandate of the TSB and provide a summary of the Guidelines for operators who have an accident with their drone.

Mandate of the TSB

The TSB is an independent agency, enabled by the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, SC 1989, c 3 ("the CTAISB"). The Transportation Safety Board Regulations (the "TSB Regulations")1 provide the framework for the TSB's operations and function.

The TSB's overarching mandate is to assist in the advancement of safety in air, marine, pipeline and rail transportation in Canada. It is also statutorily enabled to:

  • conduct independent investigations, including public enquiries when necessary, into selected transportation occurrences, in order to make findings regarding their causes and contributing factors;
  • identify safety deficiencies, as evidenced by transportation occurrences;
  • make recommendations designed to eliminate or reduce such safety deficiencies; and
  • report publicly on investigations and findings in relation thereto.2

In its written reports to the public following accident investigations, the TSB provides analysis and information on the causes and contributing factors of a transportation occurrence. The TSB does not assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability and its reports and decisions are not binding on any parties in legal or disciplinary proceedings.3

Guidelines on Drone Occurrence Reporting issued by TSB

The Guidelines were issued by the TSB on June 13, 2019 and relate to the reporting of occurrences (as defined by the CTAISB, which includes both "accidents" and "incidents"). While there are specific circumstances where a report to the TSB will be necessary, all categories of drone operations must adhere to the Guidelines. Below is a summary of the applicability of the Guidelines for operators to follow if they experience an accident:

Who must report?
  • A pilot with a drone weighing more than 25kgs that is involved in an "accident" as defined by paragraph 2(1)(a) of the TSB Regulations must report.*

  • A pilot with a drone that has come in direct contact with a person, where that person is killed or sustains a serious injury as a result must report.

  • A pilot with a drone that collides with another drone or manned aircraft must report.
What should be reported?
  • Information relating to the drone (such as the type, model and registration number), the responsible people (such as the name of the owner, operator, pilot-in-command), and details about what happened are included in what must be reported, according to s. 2(2) of the TSB Regulations.
  • Reports should be made "as soon as possible by the quickest means available," according to s. 2(3) of the TSB Regulations. Any remaining information that was not provided initially should be provided "as soon as it becomes available within 30 days after the occurrence."
  • Occurrences in or over Canada, or any place under Canadian air traffic control or where Canada has been asked to investigate, must be reported to the TSB.
  • The purpose of the TSB's powers is to ensure aviation safety. Reporting assists the regulator and the industry ensure continued safety. If an investigation is launched as a result of a report relating to a drone, the TSB is required to prepare and make available a public report on its findings. Any safety deficiencies must be identified, along with recommendations that promote the interests of transportation safety.
  • Operators should call the TSB with their initial report as soon as possible after an occurrence.

  • TSB investigators are on standby 24 hours a day, 7 day a week and can be reached at:
    Direct or collect: 819-994-3741
  • Toll-free: 1-800-387-3557

  • A full report must be submitted within 30 days of the occurrence by submitting a completed online reporting form.

* An "accident" includes a circumstance in which an individual dies or suffers severe injury relating to the aircraft, or the aircraft sustains structural failure or damage that adversely impacts the aircraft's structural strength.

More regulatory requirements on the horizon?

The Guidelines make reference to the fact that the TSB Regulations do not "as of yet" include specific provisions relating to drone operations. Operators could expect specific regulations in the future that will impose specific regulatory requirements on drone operators that may or may not be different that those set out in the Guidelines. Drone operators should continue to stay current on the various laws and regulations applicable to their operations.


1 TSB Regulations, SOR/2014-37.

2 CTAISB, subsection 7(1).


About Dentons

Dentons is the world's first polycentric global law firm. A top 20 firm on the Acritas 2015 Global Elite Brand Index, the Firm is committed to challenging the status quo in delivering consistent and uncompromising quality and value in new and inventive ways. Driven to provide clients a competitive edge, and connected to the communities where its clients want to do business, Dentons knows that understanding local cultures is crucial to successfully completing a deal, resolving a dispute or solving a business challenge. Now the world's largest law firm, Dentons' global team builds agile, tailored solutions to meet the local, national and global needs of private and public clients of any size in more than 125 locations serving 50-plus countries.

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. Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.