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23 Mar 2017

The Truth About Canadian UAV (Drone) Exemptions

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A lot of people think that they’re flying under exemptions when they’re really not. This is putting a lot of people at risk of some pretty decent size fines. I wanted to write a quick article to talk about the exemptions and what they really mean. My goal here is not to scold you for what you’re doing, not to tell you what you are doing is wrong, but to keep you in the general public safe and free from these hefty fines.

Let’s start with the classification of these exemptions. There are two classifications of exceptions, the first classification is for aircraft that are under 1 kg. This is a much less restrictive classification, but it still has restrictions that very few people understand the impact of. The second classification is for aircraft or between 1 kg and 25 kg. This is a far more restricted set of rules, as this size of aircraft compose a far more significant threat to the safety of the general public.

Before I get into the specifics of these restrictions I’m going to tell you a few stories about violations that I’ve seen and tell you why these restrictions are important.

I once saw some photos that were taken from DJI Phantom. They were great looking photos. They were nicely edited and retouched, had really great composition, they we’re generally nice work. What was not nice to see, was that these photos were taken above a prison and that prison was on the edge of a small town. This was a violation in so many ways. In fact this particular set of photos not only violated the exemptions and Canadian air regulation, they violated a criminal law that prevents you from flying over prisons. This pilot was not only at risk of fines in the thousands of dollars, they were at risk of prosecution under criminal law and could face jail time.

The next story is really the most common one that I hear. There are hundreds of people out there that have DJI Phantoms that were previously fitting into the under 2 kg classification that no longer exists. These people assumed because they met that one requirement, because they met that first requirement that they saw at the top of the conditions page, that they could operate under the exemptions. This led to hundreds if not thousands of people flying DJI Phantoms in urban areas, close to airports, and in situations that were not at all safe for them or for the general public. This again was exposing them to some pretty large fines.

Now let’s look at what the restrictions really are, and review the ones that are the most restrictive and prevent 99% of these missions from being legal.

Lower restrictions: Total takeoff weight under 1 KG (Phantom does not fit)

  • Operate at least 9KM from any airport
  • Have training according to circular 600-004 and evidence of that training (check out our training)

Higher restrictions 1-25KG: This is where the phantom fits

  • Operate at least 9 KM from any listed aerodrome (not airport)
  • Operate at least 5.56 KM from any aerodrome NOT listed
  • Operate at least 5.56 KM from any built up area (anything larger than a farmstead)
  • Operate only in Class G airspace
  • Operate outside of a control zone
  • Operate at least 500 feet from any building, structure (towers, bridges etc), vehicle, animal, or person that is not part or subject of the operation
  • Have training according to circular 600-004 and evidence of that training (check out our training)

As you can see, these are extremely restrictive and would really mean that you’re only able to operate under exemption in very remote very rural areas.

We are going to have to get them some more discussion in the future as to what the specific terms and restrictions really mean. Take built-up area for example. This is a often debated term that we’re going to need to get into a little bit. Right now it’s defined as any area larger than Homestead. But will get into that a little bit more in the future.

What do I need to do if I don’t meet these conditions?

To fly commercially outside of these restrictions you are going to need to become a legitimate commercial pilot. For this, you are going to need your SFOC (Special Flight Operations Certificate). To get the certificate you are going to need to:

Too restrictive?

Aerobotika is here to help. You can get around these restrictions by working with us to become a legitimate commercial drone operator. Reach out to us with the form below or call 1-800-579-1828 ext 1. if you want to know how we can help you get setup.

For now, please stay safe and do your diligence to protect yourself and the general public.

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