Drones are being used to make work safer, easier and more efficient in many different industries in Canada and abroad. If you’ve never flown drones before, don’t worry, you can get up to speed quickly and using drones in less time than you think. Below is some basic information on choosing a drone, getting familiar, and operating legally under the Transport Canada framework.
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If you’re just starting out with drones, you may be looking to purchase your first one. It’s best to start simple, and have a practice drone that you can use at home to help you get comfortable behind the sticks. Many of the small, cheaper drones are actually more responsive and harder to control than the larger, more commercial units – which makes them good to practice with.
Drone recommendation – for a useful practice drone, try the Holy Stone HS170 Predator Mini drone. It’s a reasonably priced drone that will help you get the hang of flying. With this drone you must maintain altitude with the left control stick, unlike newer drones that you would fly outside and will maintain altitude with GPS assist technology. This is a big reason why this is a good drone to start with, as you are learning to react and fly a drone without the stabilization tech that is built into newer units.
Starting back on June 1st of 2019, new drone regulations were released in Canada. These rules apply to all drones between 250 grams and 25 kilograms in weight. If your drone is lighter than 250 grams (this is a very small drone), then you can fly legally without a pilot certificate. If your drone is heavier than 25 kg, you must follow the old process of obtaining a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC).
There are 2 main types of operations under Canada’s regulations: Basic and Advanced.
- Basic Operations – once you have obtained the Basic pilot certificate, you can fly a drone legally in Canada, but you must maintain a 30 metre buffer from bystanders, you cannot fly over people, and you must fly in uncontrolled airspace.
If you plan to operate mainly in remote areas and away from people in Canada, the Basic certificate level may be right for you. You are a bit more restricted on where you can fly, but it is a quicker and simpler process than the Advanced certificate, and you will not require a flight review.
Basic course recommendation – it’s always a good idea to start with some relevant training prior to challenging a Transport Canada exam. There are many online drone training providers out there today, but I recommend Coastal Drone’s Basic Ground School for this tier of training.
- Advanced Operations – if you obtain your Advanced pilot certificate in Canada, you can legally fly near and over bystanders (as long as your drone is compliant), and you can fly in controlled airspace. It is highly recommended that you take an online ground school course prior to challenging the Small Advanced Exam through Transport Canada.
Advanced course recommendation – it is a good idea to seek out a quality ground school course in order the meet the Transport Canada knowledge requirements prior to challenging the advanced exam. I would recommend the Advanced Ground School from Coastal Drone, which is the best Canadian drone training that I’ve been through. It includes the cost of your flight review as well, which is a required step of the advanced certificate workflow.
Keep in mind that these Basic and Advanced operations described above apply to drones that must be flown within Visual Line of Sight. This means that the operator must be able to maintain the ability to sense and avoid other aircraft and obstacles that could lead to harm to people and/or property.
Click here for Transport Canada’s infographic that summarizes the two main pathways for certification in Canada.
Learning to Fly: Basics
If you have purchased a small drone already, but are very new to flying, there are some great free resources out there to help. Nothing will help more than getting more time on the sticks, so be sure to practice as much as possible and try not to get discouraged at your first crashes – they will happen. The video below gives a good overview of basic drone controls, which will apply to any entry level drone.
Remember, when you are first getting started, you can fly a small drone that is 250 grams or less in Canada and not have to worry about regulations when flying outdoors. Alternatively, you can fly indoors to circumvent any regulation and not have to worry about people or property.