Flying a Drone in Ontario

Flying a Drone in Ontario


Flying a Drone in Ontario

Category of Operation


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Airspace Information

With new drone regulations in force, there’s one question we get more that any other –


The good news is that the 2019 Canadian drone laws are actually a lot more permissible than they have been previously! Once you receive either a basic or advanced category certification, drone flying becomes pretty straightforward. And there’s a great tool to help you see where you can fly drones in Canada. While Ontario doesn’t have their own drone or UAV specific laws, there may be additional restrictions in provincial or municipal parks, so be sure to check in on those before you fly. 

The screen shot above is taken from the Drone Site Selection Tool – your new best friend for flying drones. The side menu has lots of additional information and tools you can activate. My favourites are the zoom tool, distance measuring tool and the operational design tools. You can even save your favourites to be the default when you load the page! 

Click around to get information about specific areas and keep checking back for more updates including airspace coordination procedures which are coming soon! If another app is disagreeing with the information you see on the Site Selection Tool, I’d be more likely to trust the SST. It uses official NavCanada data which many app developers don’t pay to have access to. 

Have questions about the SST? Or drone flying regulations in general? Send us a note! [email protected]

Standard Operating Procedures: An Overview

Standard Operating Procedures: An Overview


Did you know?
Standard Operating Procedure requirements are laid out in the Canadian Aviation Regulations for both Basic and Advanced Category pilots.
We’ve summarized the requirements below so you can double check your procedures to ensure they meet the mandated requirements. Remember – Advanced pilots will have their procedures checked during a flight review so make sure you have them all in there! 
For more guidance on SOP including examples, check out our SOP Guide which is included in any of our bundled packages!

Site Survey requirements are laid out in CAR 901.27:

No pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system unless, before commencing operations, they determine that the site for take-off, launch, landing or recovery is suitable for the proposed operation by conducting a site survey that takes into account the following factors: 

(a) the boundaries of the area of operation;
(b) the type of airspace and the applicable regulatory requirements; 
(c) the altitudes and routes to be used on the approach to and departure from the area of operation; 
(d) the proximity of manned aircraft operations; 
(e) the proximity of aerodromes, airports and heliports; 
(f) the location and height of obstacles, including wires, masts, buildings, cell phone towers and wind turbines 
(g) the predominant weather and environmental conditions for the area of operation; and 
(h) the horizontal distances from persons not involved in the operation.


CAR 901.23 states that these processes are required.

(1) No pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system unless the following procedures are established:

(a) normal operating procedures, including pre-flight, take-off, launch, approach, landing and recovery procedures;


CAR 901.28 has some additional details

A pilot of a remotely piloted aircraft shall, before commencing a flight,

(a) ensure that there is a sufficient amount of fuel or energy for safe completion of the flight;
(b) ensure that each crew member, before acting as a crew member, has been instructed

(i) with respect to the duties that the crew member is to perform, and
(ii) on the location and use of any emergency equipment associated with the operation of the remotely piloted aircraft system; and

(c) determine the maximum distance from the pilot the aircraft can travel without endangering aviation safety or the safety of any person.


CAR 901.23 states that emergency procedures are required

(1) No pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system unless the following procedures are established:

(b) emergency procedures, including with respect to

(i) a control station failure,
(ii) an equipment failure, 
(iii) a failure of the remotely piloted aircraft, 
(iv) a loss of the command and control link, 
(v) a fly-away, and 
(vi) flight termination.

Transport Canada RPAS Information Session

Transport Canada RPAS Information Session

On Tuesday, April 23rd, Transport Canada held an information session at the Richmond campus of BCIT hosted by Justin Miller, a Technical Team Lead on the RPAS Task Force and Jason Rule with the RPAS Centre of Excellence.  Following a short presentation covering the highlights of regulations, they opened the floor up to questions from the 20 or so present.

Some key points came to light which are worth reiterating:

  • Both basic and advanced category pilots need to have site survey, normal and emergency procedures and to follow the outlined processes for every flight.
  • “Bystander” is defined as anyone not directly involved in the operation. If you are overflying a job site that is occupied by workers (example: workers on a construction site or cast and crew on a movie set) they should be briefed that the operation is taking place and made aware of risks, but they are not considered bystanders. Use common sense when applying this regulation.
  • The NRC Site Selection Tool will be updated and renamed the Where 2 Fly Portal. Along with maintaining the top-down view of airspace and aerodrome location, it will include guidance on the procedures to follow to access airspace. Interestingly, in addition to defining airspace boundaries and the 3NM buffer around airports and 1 NM around heliports, there are also restricted areas around runways that are depicted. The photo quality is not great, but have a look at the yellow/orange and red boundaries.
  • Tethered drones are not considered drones and therefore aren’t regulated under Part 9. Instead, they’re goverened by CAR Standard 621 Chapter 11 and considered obstacles to navigation.
  • Transport Canada doesn’t regulate privacy. Just because there is no mention of it in the CARs, doesn’t mean that you are exempt from following privacy or other laws. Be sure you’re familiar with the Privacy Act, the Personal Protection and Electronic Documents Act, Parks Canada regulations and regulations surrounding operations near wildlife. If you will be operating near animals a good heuristic is that if you’re close enough to make them move, you’re too close. Also, check out the Species at Risk Act, Marine Mammal Regulations and Migratory Bird Regulations.
  • When it comes to enforcement, Transport Canada has been working with the RCMP and some local police units to provide training on enforcing the Aeronautics Act which the CARs fall under. They’ll have a specific ticketing booklet with a decision tree to work through to ensure you’re operating legally. Be ready to produce your operation certificate, registration and other mandated documents if requested.
  • In addition to CARs infractions, RPAS pilots can also be fined under the Criminal Code if they are causing mischief, endangering aircraft or operating under the influence. A key thing to note is that you can be fined for each Some of the questionable videos I’ve seen would have racked up $20 000+ in infractions if TC really wanted to throw the book at someone.
  • TC is working to educate the public through an awareness campaign on social media and industry events. They also had sweet lanyards for anyone at the events.

Have any questions? Let me know! Send me an email at [email protected]

3 Things I’ve Learned From Drones

3 Things I’ve Learned From Drones


3 Things I’ve Learned From Drones

(and the stories behind the lessons)

I’m an instructor on drones and in airplanes so I have lots of opportunities to teach aviation. Every once in a while, though, aviation flips right back around and returns the favour. Here are 3 lessons I’ve learned from drones and the stories behind them.

Lesson 1: There are lots of ways to forget gear.

Here’s the situation. We’re at the office packing up the vehicles to leave for a flight. The flight location is about 3 hours from the office and about 2 hours from civilization (aka a Walmart). Checklist is out and we’re going through the items.
Jack*: “tablets…check, cables…check, micro SD cards… hey Jill, where are the SD cards?”
Jill: “OH GOOD CALL they’re on my desk”
Now at this point, as we later learned, Jill meant this as “they’re on my desk. Now you know where they are so you can go get them” and Jack interpreted it as “Jill says they’re on her desk, so she’ll grab them before we go”.
You can probably see where this is going. Guess who left without SD cards and only realized once they arrived on site. Yep.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty)

The Lesson:

Despite having (and using! these are different things…) a checklist, you can still forget things. Our lesson and remedy from this scenario was to assign packing duties to one person only. Usually this is the PIC (pilot in command) unless they’ve delegated otherwise. That way we avoid confusion and by giving one person the responsibility, more ownership is taken over the gear.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty)

Lesson 2: ATTI mode can smell fear.

Do you know when a great time to fly in ATTI** mode is? I can tell you when isn’t! Just like Murphy always promised, I was on a narrow dock with railings on either side about a storey up from the water surrounding us. The wind was blowing and I had about 20% battery left. Our GPS connection kept dropping off and throwing the aircraft into ATTI mode where it would drift around in the wind requiring constant and varying corrections. It all worked out okay. I landed without incident but between this and the flight from lesson 3, my heart still starts jumping whenever the DJI low battery sound come on.

**ATTI mode on DJI gear means no GPS or vision positioning systems assistance. Internal sensors only.

The Lesson:

Make your practice sessions some of the hardest flying you do. Fly close to structures and trees and note how your aircraft reacts. Try out all flight modes and make sure you can bring the aircraft back home. Practice reorienting yourself with the aircraft when it’s at a distance. That way, if you encounter these scenarios with the added stress of being on a job site, you’ll be better equipped to deal with it.

Lesson 3: The sun is an obstacle.

Okay, maybe not in the same way as trees or buildings BUT it can be just as limiting. There have been a few flights where I’ve been thankful to have remembered my cheap, non-polarized*** sunglasses but none quite as impactful as the boat flight. As you may have already figured out, we were launching off of the back of a boat. To do this legally in the Vancouver Harbour, we had to be out of the airspace by landing back on the boat by 6:45am; just in time for HeliJet’s first arrival. It was getting close to then so we were getting the last of the shots as the sun crested the mountain range behind us. We had been using the drone’s lights to maintain orientation and line of sight but now, the sun was reflecting off of all the building windows downtown and I lost visual contact. Shortly after this, the aircraft lost GPS, flipped into ATTI mode and my video signal became intermittent. Then the low battery warning kicked in. By the time we regained line of sight and flew back (thanks to some help from the return to home function), I landed on the boat with :48 seconds of power left. It was 6:44. We all lived to fly another day.

*** non-polarized so you can still see screens like the tablets

Lesson learned:

It’s important to think about the sun’s position when you’re flying. You will be staring at the sky for a while, after all. Aside from the obvious issues of sunburn and dehydration, it’s important to note how it may impact your ability to maintain line of sight, even on overcast, but bright days.

BONUS Lesson 4: Weather happens to drones too.

This didn’t happen to me, but to a former student of mine.
It’s late November in Vancouver. It’s one of those low overcast and misty days with the temperature just above 0 degrees. This experimental builder had a new drone to test out and popped it up to test flight characteristics. As the aircraft was hovering, he noticed the sound of the motors chan

ged. Bringing it back, he thought there must be an issue with how he had it configured. Upon inspection, he noticed ice adhering to the underside of all of his propellers! The slight pressure change that happens as lift is produced caused the temperature to drop just low enough for the humidity to freeze onto the propellers. Remember learning about icing risk in ground school? Well it can actually happen! So it’s good to be aware and to listen as well as watch for changes in aircraft performance.

Do you have any good lessons you’ve learned through your flying? Let us know!

New Drone Regulation FAQs

New Drone Regulation FAQs

Haven’t had a chance to view the new regulations? Check out our other post with a link to download the Gazette.


Now that many have had a chance to review the regulations published by Transport Canada on January 9th, inevitably many questions have been raised. Quick note before we get into this – the new regulations come into effect on June 1. Although some are being implemented now, they won’t be enforced until after June 1.

Big thank you to the RPAS Task Force at Transport Canada for making time to connect during this busy time to clarify some key points that are generating a lot of discussion.

Visual Observers
  • Visual observers (VO) are no longer mandatory crew members. The overarching rule of “don’t be reckless” still applies though, so use them when it makes sense to have them on site.
  • If you are using VOs, either they or the pilot must have the drone in visual line of sight at all times. The VO needs to be able to communicate with the pilot at all times too.
  • If you are flying with FPV goggles, you may use a VO to maintain line of sight provided you can maintain communication with the VO at all times.
  • The regulation will permit the use of HUD-type goggles such as the google glass.
Drone Management Portal – Registration
  • Aircraft can be registered to an organization. The personal name requested during registration should be the main contact at the organization.
  • You can fly a drone that is not registered to you. It just needs to be registered to someone (that you have permission from to fly…)
  • All drones need to be registered – even if you’re a modeller/home builder. That’s why they made it $5 each rather than $35 or $55 which is typically the standard fee.
  • The drone registration portal is open now but will not be enforced until June 1.
Drone Management Portal – Testing
  • The question bank for the tests is large and growing. While cases of rapid completion don’t specifically get flagged in the system, TC does look at pass rates and time-to-completion trends and can change the questions and even the frequency with which they appear. During the flight review process, advanced certificate applicants will be questioned on several knowledge topics as a proxy to verify they are the ones who wrote their exam.
  • Expect some guidance material for the exam from TC in about a month. Unfortunately, they got tied up in beauracracy and weren’t able to be released at the same time as the Gazette.
Flight Reviews
  • The requirement to hold a Basic Certificate to be able to fly the flight review is just weird phrasing. You don’t need to write both exams. You get a Basic Certificate when you write the Advanced Certificate online exam. So just bring proof of that to your flight review.
  • Expect a few knowledge questions when you show up. Examples: What airspace are we in? How did you figure it out? What about if you were here *points to map*? How many GPS units does your drone have? What is its max takeoff weight?
  • A flight review can be done on any RPA if done in uncontrolled airspace.
  • There will be an exemption carve out for Flight Reviews coming next week. We’ll get more guidance then.
  • The “reviewee” is considered PIC.
  • The drone used in the flight review does not need to be registered to the PIC.
  • The flight review is type agnostic. Do the test on a Spark? Fly a Matrice 600 Pro. Or an eBee. You should, however, make sure you’re competent on the machine you’re going to fly (refer to rule against being reckless).
Safety Assurance
  • Safety Assurance can only come from the manufacturer
  • The guidance material on this (AC – an Advisory Circular) will be released next week to stakeholders and manufacturers
  • DJI has expressed interest in pursuing Safety Assurance but wants to see the AC before they decide/announce anything
Distance from People
  • The 100′ horizontal distance from people mentioned in CAR 901.26 means freestanding bodies. “People” does not refer to those in cars or buildings. Asking people to step inside while you fly is totally reasonable under the new regulations.
  • Only Canadian citizens and permanent residents may hold Basic and Advanced Certificates.
  • Foreign operators will need to apply for an SFOC. Before you freak out let’s remember what an SFOC actually is. Not all SFOC applications follow the format we’re used to calling “an SFOC”. SFOCs have existed in the aviation industry looooong before RPAS were around and come in many shapes and sizes. It was just a convenient stop-gap to use in the drone industry until our new regulations were published and we got used to thinking of them as one specific thing. An SFOC is just that – a special authorization to conduct a flight outside of what the regulations cover. If someone holds a foreign license/certificate/permit from their country of origin, it may be possible to authorize a flight (read: issue an SFOC) based on that certification alone. A TC inspector needs to make that decision though as there is no international standard for licenses/certificates/permits. Those from nations with established procedures (USA, Australia, New Zealand, and the countries of the EU for example) will likely run into minimal issues. It may not be ideal, but at least there’s a process.

Do you have questions about what’s next for you? Tune into our Facebook Live event on Monday, January 14th!


Transport Canada’s Regulatory Update from UC18

Transport Canada’s Regulatory Update from UC18

NOTICE: check out our new post about the rules that are now in effect!

At the end of October, Transport Canada presented a regulatory update at Unmanned Canada- Unmanned System Canada’s fall conference in Vancouver, BC. While specifics such as release dates for the highly anticipated regulations were not a part of the announcements, we saw some helpful details that paint a picture of what we can expect. From this, we’re able to illustrate the expected paths to compliance under the new framework.

Before continuing, please note that the information below is what we anticipate will become regulation. These regulations are not yet in force.


  • 2018 is still TC’s goal for regulation release (Canada Gazette 2 – CG2)
  • SFOCs will still be valid following CG2 during the implementation of regulations; a 6-month timeframe
  • SFOCs can still be issued for unique operations during the 6-month implementation period
    • While it wasn’t said, it was implied that operators will be encouraged, after CG2 drop, to work toward the appropriate permit rather than a standing SFOC.
  • There will no longer be a recreational vs. commercial distinction. Operations will be categorized as basic or advanced. A fun flight can be “advanced” and a research project or work for pay can be “basic”.
  • These rules apply to all remotely piloted aircraft between 250g and 25kgs
  • Unmanned Aircraft will be referred to as Drones or RPAS for Remotely Piloted Aircraft System on TC documents moving forward


To decide if you pursue a basic authorization or advanced authorization, the main deciding factor is the class of airspace you intend to operate in. If your flights will only ever be in class G uncontrolled airspace, you may only need a basic certification. If you want to be able to operate in classes C-F, you will need an advanced authorization. The table below provides more information on the regulatory categories for basic and advanced operations.

250g – 25kgs, operated within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS)

Quick reminder on aerodromes. They are any area of land or water, including a frozen surface that is used, designed, prepared or equipped for the arrival, departure, movement or servicing of aircraft. It includes heliports, airports, bodies of water with floatplanes etc.

The administration of the knowledge exams for basic, advanced and flight reviewer will be through Transport Canada’s online Drone Mangement Portal.  This tool will also enable drone registrations.


Flight reviewers must be associated with a training school that provides compliant ground school. The initial round of flight reviewers will be certified to conduct their reviews after passing a flight reviewer exam around the same date as CG2 drop. The next eligible flight reviewers will have to meet the additional requirement of holding an advanced certificate for a period of 6 months before they are able to write the flight reviewer exam.


…ARE A CURRENT STANDING SFOC HOLDER with an SFOC that expires before January 1, 2019

Renew your Standing SFOC as soon as possible.  You’ll be able to operate under your standing SFOC until you complete the new requirements to hold your RPAS certificate.

…ARE A CURRENT STANDING SFOC HOLDER with an SFOC expiring in the spring or summer of 2019

You probably won’t need to renew (particularly if the expiry is after, say, June 2019) if you get moving on your RPAS certificate requirements right away.

…DO NOT YET HAVE A STANDING SFOC and need to fly in January

Get 3 applications + standing application in before the end of the year. If not, you may have some downtime while you gain your certification under the new framework.

…DO NOT YET HAVE A STANDING SFOC and don’t mind being “grounded” for a bit

If it’s reasonable for you to get 3 applications + standing application in before the end of the year, do that. If not, you may have some downtime while you gain your certification under the new framework.

We don’t know exactly when the regulations will come into force, but given the timelines and dates TC has set for themselves, this should play out throughout the spring of 2019.

UPDATE | 2018-11-16

I received a few great questions following the publication of this blog post.

1. What happens to current Ground School certificate holders? Do they have to take an additional exam or will they be grandfathered into the new process without an exam?

  • There will not be any grandfathering through of knowledge. Everyone from Airline Transport Pilot License holders to first-time Phantom fliers will need to write the knowledge exam that is appropriate for the certificate they’re pursuing (basic or advanced).

2. Will current ground school certificate holders have to take the flight school exam?

  • If they’re pursuing an advanced certificate, they’ll need to meet a skill requirement in front of a flight reviewer after they’ve written their advanced knowledge test.

3. We have clients from all over Canada. Will they now have to find a local flight examiner?

  • Yes. Anyone who is currently on the list of compliant training organizations has been contacted by TC to put forth candidates to be flight reviewers. Transport Canada is confident this “first batch” of reviewers will provide adequate coverage for all areas of Canada.

4. We have a national standing SFOC (Complex) as do a few of our clients. Does this get replaced with a permit to fly in the future?

  • Pilots will now be certified to fly individually, rather than under an organization like the SFOC provided. Individuals will need to pursue the appropriate certificate for their intended operations and there may be additional requirements at a company level to ensure consistency in the operations conducted (operations manuals, safety systems, checklists etc)


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