Transport Canada has outlined new drone regulations that would ease the necessity of filing for an an SFOC (Special Flight Operations Certificate) for every commercial flight. Current regulations require that operators who wish to fly commercially apply for an SFOC – not a simple form – and wait a minimum of 2 weeks for approval. The system creates an administrative burden for both regulators and operators, and it’s a problem destined only to get worse. According to Transport Canada’s UAS Task Force, SFOC applications in the country topped 4,000 last year and are projected to approach 7,000 this year.
The new proposal would create a system that looks something like the Part 107 framework in the US – with some differences. Drone operations would fall into 3 broad risk categories: “Very Small Drone Operations”, “Limited Drone Operations,” and “Complex Drone Operations.” Most recreational flyers would fall under the first category, low-risk operations such as rural and wildlife applications would fall under the second. Operations in urban or controlled airspace fall under the third category. SFOCs would only be required for flight that falls outside of any of the categories, such as BVLOS flight or use of a larger aircraft.
While pilots in all categories are required to pass a basic knowledge test, follow simple guidelines, and carry liability insurance: small drones and limited operations are accessible to a broad audience. These operators are not required to register their aircraft, but must simply mark them with name and contact information.
Operators who want to carry out complex operations will be required to meet additional standards: they must also obtain a pilot’s license for unmanned vehicles, register their aircraft, and may only operate a drone meeting design standards.
The risk-based categories make sense, and operators in Canada discouraged by the strict interim regulations against recreational flyers announced earlier this year (and later updated to be less restrictive) applaud the proposal. Transport Canada is accepting public comment on the regulations until October 13, 2017. Those wishing to comment may participate in an online forum, attend one of the remaining public engagement sessions, or comment by email sent to [email protected]
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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