When it comes to whether or not to bring a drone to Canada on vacation, the question isn’t why as much as it is Why Not?
Canada is a vast, beautiful country with people that have similar sensibilities to Americans when it comes to just about everything. We share a language, a continent, and much of our history, after all.
Of course, Canada is also rich in natural splendor. But the question is, are you allowed to take a drone there on your next vacation?
Yes, you can take your drone to Canada and use it in almost any way you like. However, some rules and regulations should be followed if you wish to avoid legal problems and the possible confiscation of your drone.
Here, we will cover those laws and regulations fully so that you can enjoy your drone in the great nation of Canada.
Agencies that write and handle drone laws in Canada
Canada’s laws and regulations regarding the use of drones are drafted by Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCAA).
If you have any questions or concerns not dealt with in this article, you can find all current rules and regulations on the Canadian Government’s website for Drone Safety.
Drone laws in Canada
The TCAA is highly transparent when it comes to the ways in which Canada governs the use of drones. So, if you have any concerns, please consider referring to them.
All foreign drone operators must obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC).
According to the TCCA, drones are allowed in Canada, but their use is regulated.
New drone laws in Canada
In January 2019, the Canadian government put new laws into effect concerning the use of drones.
Drones weighing no more than 250 grams (.55 pounds) are considered to be micro drones. Their use is categorized as either Basic or Advanced and subject to the following rules:
Micro drones are considered to be those that weigh 250 grams or less, including equipment such as cameras, safety cages, additional battery packs, and more.
The rules are carefully crafted to clarify that the total weight of the drone and everything it carries is to be included within this weight limit.
In other words, if you have a drone weight 240 grams and add any cargo or attachments that weigh 11 grams or more, then the device will not qualify as a micro drone until its weight is reduced.
Pilots are required to use good judgment in the manner in which they operate their drones.
This regulation is kept somewhat vague due to the fact that drone technology is new and changing, meaning public safety may be endangered in ways that are difficult to predict.
For this reason, the burden is placed on the pilot or operator of the drone to use reasonable caution and to act with goodwill during flight operations.
The rule of Good Judgment comes with a number of official recommendations, including but not limited to:
- Maintain a direct line of sight between the drone and the pilot
- Do not fly higher than 400 feet
- Maintain a safe distance between uninvolved bystanders and the drone
- Maintain distance between the drone and airports, heliports, waterdromes, and aerodromes.
- Remain clear of aircraft at all times.
- Perform pre-flight checks before each flight.
- Never attempt to fly drones beyond the reach of the radio connection between the controller and the drone.
- Avoid flights near or over advertised events.
Unfortunately, the TCAA does not delineate the steps they consider to be appropriate pre-flight checks. For this reason, we recommend the following steps, as established by drone craft experts.
- Check for notices to airmen (NOTAMs).
- Survey the flight area on Google Maps.
- Ensure the drone flight app and firmware are up to date.
- Check that all batteries are charged.
- Check the area for obstacles.
- Establish a safe landing and takeoff area.
- Inspect the drone for damage to essential flight components
Keep in mind that the TCAA may change or update their expectations of drone pre-flight checks, in which case the above list may not meet the regulatory requirements of the Canadian government.
Further defining attributes of micro drones
The TCAA states that it considers micro drones to be aircraft in accordance with Canadian Aviation Regulations and the Aeronautics Act.
As such, their documentation explicitly prohibits micro drones from entering the following types of zones:
- Zones where the Aeronautics Act restricts the use of airspace to all aircraft
- Class F Special Use Restricted Airspace
- Zones where a NOTAM for Forest Fire Aircraft Operating Restrictions has been emitted
Everything described and discussed so far is included in the rules for drone use under the Basic drone flight category. In the next section, we will discuss Advanced category drone use regulations.
Transport Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police enforced Advanced drone flight regulations
Here, we wish to reinforce the assertion that Canada’s laws are left somewhat vague in order to leave room for the government to be able to respond to an unforeseeable issue.
To that end, they are careful to describe all violations of drone law and regulations as an infraction of one of the following guidelines:
- Placing people or aircraft at risk
- Flying without the required certificate
- Flying unregistered or unmarked drones
Certificates, knowledge requirements, and flight reviews
The pilots of drone aircraft weighing more than 250 grams must possess a drone pilot certificate. Drones weighing more than 25kg are prohibited except in special circumstances.
Drone pilots must have a Pilot Certificate showing that he or she has passed the Basic Operations test.
Drone pilots engaged in advanced operations must obtain a Pilot Certificate – Advanced Operations. To obtain it, they must pass the Small Advanced Exam as well as an in-person interview.
All drone pilots operating drone devices that weigh between 250 grams and 25 kg must register with Transport Canada. Registered drones must be marked with the registration number before a flight takes place.
RPAS Safety Assurance & Public liability insurance
The RPAS Safety Assurance defines the safe limits of drones used by registered pilots.
Drone pilots are required to operate their devices inside the limits as outlined by the RPAS Safety Assurance guidelines and those that the manufacturer of the drone product has laid out in the user’s guide.
Completion of the RPAS Safety Assurance test is required before advanced drone flight operations may be performed.
Transport Canada says that buying public liability insurance for your drone is recommended but not required. Most home insurance policies do not cover drones.
It should be noted that pilots who operate their drones legally without insurance may be compelled to pay for damages they cause.
Privacy and the use of drones equipped with cameras are recognized as legitimate public concerns.
That being the case, the Canadian government and relevant authorities have offered some useful guidelines meant to protect the privacy and property of Canadians.
The guidelines are directed toward recreational drone pilots. This is because recreational use is not heavily regulated and because even micro drones can be used to violate the privacy of others.
They are as follows:
Pilots are reminded that they are responsible for the data and images they collect while using their drones.
Images that include address numbers, license plate numbers, the names of individuals, photos of faces, and so on are sensitive and can be subject to abuse.
Such abuse could be considered criminal if it is determined to be intentional, excessive, or malicious.
Limit data collection
Pilots are encouraged to limit the amount and kinds of information they collect with their camera-equipped drones. The guideline asks pilots not to collect information that does not need to be collected.
Pilots are asked not to go out of their normal flight path to collect additional data.
Drone pilots are asked to get permission from any person who is, has been, or will be filmed by a camera-equipped drone.
Further, they are asked to obtain permission from the owners of any property that their drone device records during operation.
Store data securely
All data collected which depicts another person, the property, or the data of another person should be kept and/or stored in a way that is responsible and secure.
Should any person, either private or in authority, ask about the activities of the drone and pilot, the operator is asked to be fully forthcoming and honest about what they are doing.
This guideline recognizes that every person to which a drone operates near may reasonably expect that they should have their questions about the activities of the pilot disclosed to them.
Violations of privacy
The Canadian government has outlined a number of activity types that violate the privacy rights or other rights of Canadians. They include, but are not limited to:
- Creating a nuisance: Flying in a way that is disruptive, invasive, and persistent may be considered the intentional creation of a nuisance.
- Voyeurism: Flying camera-equipped drones in such a manner as to intentionally violate the privacy of others is considered a crime.
- Mischief: Sometimes difficult to differentiate from creating a nuisance, mischief is any behavior that may be considered to be annoying or difficult. It includes causing minor damage to property or injury. It also includes acts resulting in significant harm.
- Violations of the law: Any law on the books that are violated using a drone will be investigated and prosecuted in the same ways as they would had they done without a drone. Likewise, existing crimes that are violated using a drone will be punished as seriously as if they were perpetrated by any other means.
Commercial drone use
Canadian businesses are required to adhere to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Any drone operator using a drone for financial gain under the authority of an established business or enterprise must do the same.
Under PIPEDA, commercial drone pilots must obtain permission to collect and use the personal information of others with anyone. Such consent is only valid if those involved understand what they have agreed to.
A business is required to use others’ personal information with respect and in a professional way. Commercial drone pilots must disclose why personal information is being collected. The people involved must also be provided access to the personal information that is, has, or will be recorded.
The commercial drone pilot must protect personal information and handle it appropriately.
PIPEDA does not apply when the following are being created using drone activity:
- Academic research
- Work intended to benefit non-profit organizations