Can a foreign operator fly their drone (RPA/UAV) in Canada?
May 6, 2024

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Can a Foreign Operator Fly Their Drone (RPA/UAV) in Canada?

Drones, officially termed Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), have soared in popularity worldwide. They’ve revolutionized industries from filmmaking to agriculture and have become an everyday hobbyist’s tool. However, as their numbers increase, so do questions about regulations, particularly for foreign operators looking to fly their drones in countries like Canada.

Canada boasts stunning landscapes, from the rugged mountains of British Columbia to the vast prairies of Saskatchewan. It’s no wonder drone enthusiasts worldwide are eager to capture its beauty from above. But before taking flight, it’s crucial to understand the rules and regulations governing drone operations in Canada, especially for non-residents.

Understanding Canadian Regulations

Transport Canada, the country’s transportation authority, oversees drone regulations under the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs). These regulations aim to ensure the safety of airspace and those on the ground while allowing for the responsible use of drones.

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Basic Requirements for Drone Operators

Obtaining a Pilot Certificate

Drone operators in Canada must have a Pilot Certificate for primary or advanced operations, depending on the type of flying they intend to do. For foreign operators, this means obtaining a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) or complying with the requirements for advanced operations.

Adhering to Flight Restrictions

Various restrictions apply to drone flights in Canada, including airspace restrictions, proximity to people and buildings, and altitude limitations. Operators must familiarize themselves with these restrictions before flying.

Flying Drones as a Non-Resident in Canada

Let’s address the question: Can non-residents fly their drones in Canada?

The short answer is yes, but there are some caveats. Foreign operators must comply with the same regulations as Canadian residents, including registration and certification requirements. Additionally, depending on the nature of their operations, they may need to obtain an SFOC.

Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC)

An SFOC is required for drone operations that fall outside the scope of Transport Canada’s primary or advanced operations. This includes commercial operations, controlled airspace flights, or drones weighing more than 25 kilograms.

Foreign operators seeking to fly their drones in Canada for commercial purposes or in restricted airspace typically need to obtain an SFOC. The application process provides detailed information about the proposed operation, including flight plans, safety measures, and insurance coverage.

Advanced Operations

Obtaining a Pilot Certificate for advanced operations for non-resident drone operators planning to conduct advanced operations in Canada, such as flying in controlled airspace, or near airports and bystanders. This involves passing a knowledge exam and completing an in-person flight review.

Foreign operators seeking to fly their drones in Canada for commercial purposes or in restricted airspace typically need to obtain an SFOC. The application process provides detailed information about the proposed operation, including flight plans, safety measures, and insurance coverage.

Navigating the Process

Navigating the regulatory framework for drone operations in Canada can be daunting, especially for foreign operators. However, with thorough preparation and adherence to regulations, flying drones in Canada as a non-resident is entirely feasible.

Steps for Foreign Operators:

Research Regulations

Familiarize yourself with Transport Canada’s regulations for drone operations, including registration, certification, and flight restrictions.

Obtain Necessary Documentation

Depending on the nature of your operations, you may need to register your drone, obtain a Pilot Certificate, and apply for an SFOC.

Plan Your Operations

Develop a detailed flight plan that includes safety measures, airspace considerations, and emergency procedures.

Apply for Permissions

Apply an SFOC well before your planned flight date, providing all necessary documentation and information.

Stay Informed

Regularly check for updates to regulations and airspace restrictions to ensure compliance during your stay in Canada.

While foreign operators can fly their drones in Canada, they must adhere to the country’s drone operations regulations. This includes registering their drones, obtaining the necessary certifications, and sometimes obtaining special permissions such as an SFOC.

By understanding and complying with these regulations, foreign operators can enjoy the breathtaking vistas of Canada from the perspective of their drones while ensuring the safety of airspace and those on the ground. So, pack your drone, prepare your flight plan, and get ready to capture the beauty of the Great White North from above!

Want to learn more?

This content and more is covered extensively in our five-star online drone pilot ground school. We offer both Basic and Advanced online training courses to help you get ready for the Transport Canada online exams at your own pace from the comfort of your home.

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