Written by Graeme Scott Harrison and Michael Whitt, Q.C.
On June 16, 2017, Transport Canada issued an Interim Order under the Aeronautics Act, Canada, and the Canadian Aviation Regulations, regulating the use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles for recreational purposes in Canada.
Generally speaking, the Interim Order applies to all aircraft between 250 g and 35 kg in weight, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), that are flown for recreational purposes. It replaces a previous Interim Order applicable to the same subject matter. The Interim Order does not apply to UAVs that are flown for non-recreational or commercial purposes, which continue to be subject to the rules set out in the Canadian Aviation Regulations, and the terms of any Special Flight Operations Certificate issued to the operator by Transport Canada. It also does not apply to UAVs lighter than 250 g.
The Interim Order refers to UAVs flown for recreational purposes as "model aircraft." It provides for a number of rules related to the operation of model aircraft. Specifically, the Interim Order provides, among other things, that model aircraft must be flown:
- at altitudes below 90 m above ground;
- at least 30 m from vehicles, vessels or the public in the case of a model aircraft weighing less than 1 kg;
- at least 75 m from vehicles, vessels or the public in the case of a model aircraft weighing more than 1 kg;
- no closer than 5.5 km from an airport, or 1.8 km from a heliport; and
- no more than 500 m away from its operator.
The Interim Order also provides that individuals who fly model aircraft must ensure that their contact information is found somewhere on the model aircraft itself.
Individuals who violate the provisions of the Interim Order may be subject to penalties of up to $3,000, while corporations face penalties of up to $15,000.
The Interim Order represents a continuation of Transport Canada's easing of rules applicable to recreational drones in Canada. Transport Canada has further issued public statements setting out its plan to publish regulations governing recreational UAV usage, which may include permitting and registration requirements for UAV pilots.
Bennett Jones LLP regularly advises operators of UAVs in relation to their obligations under Canadian law. If you have further questions in relation to drone operation, please do not hesitate to contact us.