Transport Canada will introduce new drone regulations this year for drones weighing less than 25 kg (approximately 55 pounds.) Current guidelines allow for non-recreational flight of drones weighing more than 25 kg and being flown out of sight of the operator with a certificate process; recreational drones of less than 2kg (4.4 pounds) do not require permission but must meet a system of exemption requirements in order to fly. The current exemption requirements follow the usual common sense restrictions: “The exemption will permit non-recreational UAVs with a maximum take-off weight not exceeding 2 kilograms to be operated away from built-up areas, controlled airspace, aerodromes, forest fire areas and other restricted locations. The exemption includes conditions which address the need for the safe and responsible use of certain UAV systems.”
The new regulations will deal more explicitly with all drones weighing less than 25 kg, as the commercial certificate process will remain the same. Transport Canada’s notice of proposed amendments says that:
The proposed regulatory amendments are intended to ensure the safe and reliable operation of UAVs in Canadian airspace and will: establish classifications including a proposal for the possibility of having a very small (lower threshold) category of aircraft; clarify terminology; establish aircraft marking & registration requirements; address personnel licensing & training; and create flight rules.
The proposal document seems to echo similar documents in the US, pointing out the danger of “near misses” and voicing privacy concerns. The description above with its mention of a “lower threshold” – which could mirror the US’ registration threshold of 9 ounces – and “marking and registration requirements” may be a warning that a similar drone registration system is to come. To date, Canada has been ahead of the US on establishing regulations, although the two countries have an agreement in place – the 2014 Joint Forward Plan – to coordinate drone regulation. The Transport Canada notice states:
Canada is engaged with the United States on ongoing regulatory development and the coordination of UAV activities through the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC)…Following the release of the U.S. NPRM and this NPA, Transport Canada will continue to share with the FAA how we:
- develop UAV regulations,
- promote UAV research & development
- address enforcement and compliance challenges, and
- collaborate on UAV activities in the Arctic. The Arctic collaboration includes the continued sharing of information through the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme UAS Expert Working Group who are working on defining minimum safety and operational requirements and best practices for scientific UAS operations across Arctic countries.
Transport Canada says the unmanned aircraft industry has grown exponentially over the past few years. In 2012, the department issued 345 special flight operation certificates to drone users. By 2014, that number jumped to 1,672.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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