North of the Border Update

As we have written previously, the biggest UAS safety problem is not a lack of additional regulations, but a lack of understanding by pilots of the existing regulations.  This is not, however, a uniquely American problem.  Despite their more developed regulatory scheme, Transport Canada is having increased difficulty with hobbyists who are unaware of the rules and businesses that are unaware that they need a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC), which is the Canadian version of a Section 333 Exemption.

To combat this problem, Transport Canada has announced a multi-pronged effort aimed at educating the public on the do’s and don’ts of UAS operations.  The Canadian Minister of Transport launched the campaign earlier this week, by releasing a series of Frequently Asked Questions and infographics outlining the general rules-of-the-air.  The second phase of the campaign  will be initiated over the winter, and will include search engine and social media advertising, awareness videos, and a simpler process to apply for permission to fly.

According to media reports, part of the education campaign is needed because of the explosion in the number of UAS operators in Canada.  The number of SFOCs granted in Canada increased by over 500% between 2011 and 2013, and persons at Transport Canada are reporting that the number of requests for permission to operate in Canada this year far exceeds last year’s level.

Not surprisingly, the safety advice given by Transport Canada is very similar to the guidance published by the FAA. It includes flying only during daylight using visual line-of-sight, a ban on first-person-view technology, and a call to respect the privacy of others.  The guidance also acknowledges the special circumstances that can come from flying in the Great White North, with advice not to fly when it is too cold due to the dramatic impact temperature can have on battery life.  Finally, the guidance provides a list of specific restrictions that prohibit flying:

  1. Any closer than 5 miles from any airport, heliport or aerodrome.
  2. Higher than 300 feet above the ground.
  3. Within restricted airspace (such as military bases, prisons, forest fire areas).
  4. Closer than 100 feet from vehicles, boats, buildings, structures or people.
  5. In populated areas or near large groups of people (such as at sporting events, concerts, festivals, firework shows).
  6. Where or when you could interfere with any first responders as they conduct their duties.
  7. Near moving vehicles. Avoid highways, bridges, busy streets or anywhere you could endanger or distract drivers.

We applaud Transport Canada for this initiative.  Keeping people educated is the one thing that has the greatest impact on safety.  We will do our part, and keep you informed on continued UAS developments in Canada.

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