If you have your own drone and are looking to get certified to operate legally in Canada, you’re in the right place. Many people from a multitude of industries are using drones to improve safety, perform work more efficiently and deliver actionable data with drones. If you are brand new to drones and do not yet own one, start here for a better introduction.
Drones, or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) as they are referred to by Transport Canada, are regulated by the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARS). Drone pilots in Canada must carry a valid drone pilot certificate, and must have their drone marked and registered before flying.
There are two types of pilot certificates that you can pursue: Basic and Advanced. These options are explained below in more detail.
Basic Pilot Certificate
Transport Canada defines basic operations as meeting the following conditions:
- You are flying in uncontrolled airspace
- You never fly over bystanders
- You fly more than 30 metres (100 feet) horizontally from bystanders
If even one of these three conditions is not true, then you are performing Advanced drone operations in Canada, and should pursue that certificate level. If this type of flying serves you (and/or your company) well when flying drones, then you can be up and running relatively quickly.
Advanced Pilot Certificate
This level of drone pilot certification will allow you to fly in uncontrolled airspace (with proper notification to NavCanada). It will also allow you to fly near and over bystanders, as long as your drone’s manufacturer has declared it safe to be flown in this regard. If you are not just flying in remote areas, and could find yourself doing drone work in areas with controlled airspace, then it’s worth it to pursue the Advanced certification.
Unlike the Basic certification, part of the process to get your Advanced cert involves a Flight Review. This is a practical test based on Transport Canada’s knowledge requirements for small RPAS. Overall, it’s more a test of procedures and safe reaction to scenarios then it is a test to see how well you can fly. This is taken through a certified flight reviewer in Canada. If you happen to be on Vancouver Island, give me a shout – I’m also conducting flight reviews in partnership with Coastal Drone Co.
Registering Your Drone
In addition to your pilot certification, you are also required to register your drone here in Canada for CAD $5 per drone. To operate legally in Canada, any drone between 250 grams and 25 kg must be marked and registered. Upon payment you will receive a unique ID number to mark your drone, which must be clearly visible on the unit.