Check out these Checklists!
January 8, 2024

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Check out these Checklists!

by | Jan 8, 2024 | Blog, General Info | 0 comments

From sub-250g drones, all the way up to the Airbus A380 and beyond, the aviation world runs on checklists.

Let’s look at some checklist requirements today!


In aviation, pilots use checklists, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and procedures to systematically prepare for flights and complete tasks. Legally, they allow an aircraft to be operated within the limitations of the aircraft (as written in the manual) and any relevant regulations.

There are differences between the terms “checklists”, “SOPs”, and “Procedures” but for drone pilots (and for this article) you can pretty much consider them synonymous. Basically, think about it like this; Your checklists should:


  • Easily allow you to operate the aircraft safely, and within any limitations 
  • Respect any regulatory requirements
  • Be written in an easy way, allowing someone without a great deal of training of background to read, understand, and follow the checklists


Before any RPAS pilot goes flying, they must have certain documents accessible before they take off. This includes checklists
There are 5 documents that both Basic and Advanced RPAS Pilots need to have, plus one more for just Advanced Pilots.

Micro Drone Pilots are not required to create checklists, but we always recommend having some sort of procedures in place, particularly for site surveys or emergencies.


  • Pilot Certificate
  • Certificate of Registration
  • Normal Procedures
  • Emergency Procedures
  • A Site Survey Checklist


  • Proof of Manufacturer’s Safety Assurance Declaration for
    operations in controlled airspace, near people, or over

Let’s look at the minimum that is required for Normal Procedures, Emergency Procedures, and a Site Survey Checklist. These are
all collectively your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or Checklists. They can be as lengthy as a full operations manual, or
as simple as a couple of pages or even an electronic app. Remember, even Basic Pilots are required to have access to Normal and
Emergency Procedures and perform a site survey. All of the requirements are outlined in the Canadian Aviation Regulations.


Normal procedures are the procedures used to setup, take off,
approach and land the drone. Each procedure must be listed in
your SOPs or Checklists. We’re not starting a F-14 Tomcat
(though we all wish we were, right?), so these procedures don’t
need to be that complicated. Some items to keep in mind;


  • For take off and landing, is the area clear from obstacles
    and pedestrians. Do you require a landing pad?
  • Best to note take off and landing time in case one of the
    automatic systems on your drone fails. You require take
    off and landing times for flight logging for a minimum of
    12 months.

901.23 (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;

Canadian Aviation Regulations 
Part IX — Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems 
Subpart 1 — Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft 
Division III — General Operating and Flight Rules 
Sections 901.20-901.23


These are the procedures to be used in the event of an

All six of the emergencies listed in 901.23 (1) (b) need to appear
in the written checklists/SOPs of Basic and Advanced Pilots,
with explanations, and procedural steps to resolve the scenarios.
Something to keep in mind:

  • After creating your emergency checklists, you need to go
    over the procedures regularly. If not, it could be years
    between the creation of the SOPs until that procedure
    gets used. Before each flight, pick one of your
    emergency SOPs and review it with you and your crew.

901.23 (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.

Canadian Aviation Regulations 
Part IX — Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems 
Subpart 1 — Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft 
Division III — General Operating and Flight Rules 
Sections 901.20-901.23


Control Station Failure

A failure of the remote control, like a dead screen or snapped stick. It does not necessarily mean that the RPAS is
uncontrollable, just that you might not have a video feed or software issue or otherwise. Failure to resolve could progress to a
loss of Command and Control, or Lost Link.

Equipment Failure

A non-flight critical piece of equipment on the RPAS fails, like a payload or gimbal, or full memory card. In this scenario the
RPAS is still controllable and recoverable. Typically the response for this scenario is to abort the mission and return to

RPAS Failure

A part of the RPAS fails leading to abnormal flight characteristics or partial loss of control, such as a cracked propellor
making whistling noises or jittery flight controls. An RPAS Failure leading to a total loss of control will most likely transition to
a Flight Termination or an immediate crash.

Loss of Command & Control Link

A loss of communication between the controller and the RPAS. This can be because of RF interference, loss of line of site
between the controller or drone, a progression of a Control Station Failure or the drone is simply too far away. Failure to
resolve a lost link will lead to a Fly Away scenario.

Fly Away

A Situation where the drone has lost its Command and Control Link AND is flying in an unwarranted manner and
nonresponsive, potentially flying towards controlled airspace or away from the mission operational boundaries. In this
scenario, you will need to be able to provide the nearest ATC facility the location, direction, speed, and estimated battery life
remaining of the aircraft. If operating in controlled airspace, NAV Canada may provide you with a phone number to call. You
can also call 1-800-WX-BRIEF to report the emergency to your nearest Flight Information Centre.

Flight Termination

A situation where the drone is uncontrollable OR the pilot needs to land as quickly as possible. The pilot may or may not
have control of the drone during a flight termination, so all steps need to be taken to ensure the landing site is clear of


A few things to keep in mind with the use of checklists.

1. If the manufacturer has provided checklists, steps or
recommendations, they MUST be followed. Review your
manual before creating your SOPs and Checklists

2. If you have a crew of people working with you, they must
all have access to the SOPs and Checklists. You must
also brief your crew on duties and procedures.

It’s all well and good to have them, but if you don’t use
and follow them, it’s as if they never really existed in the
first place. Make sure they are realistic so that they are
able to be easily followed with no steps skipped.

901.23 (2) If the manufacturer of the remotely piloted aircraft
system provides instructions with respect to the topics
referred to in paragraphs (1)(a) and (b), the procedures
established under subsection (1) shall reflect those instructions.

901.23 (3) No pilot shall conduct the take-off or launch of a remotely piloted aircraft unless the procedures referred to
in subsection (1) are reviewed before the flight by, and
are immediately available to, each crew member. 

901.23 (4) No pilot shall operate a remotely piloted aircraft system unless the operation is conducted in accordance with
the procedures referred to in subsection (1). 

Canadian Aviation Regulations 
Part IX — Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems 
Subpart 1 — Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft 
Division III — General Operating and Flight Rules 
Sections 901.20-901.23


Part of any Basic or Advanced RPAS Pilot’s SOPs is the
completion of a site survey. The Site Survey must contain all of
the items contained in CARS 901.27. Some things to keep in


  • An RPAS Pilot must have a checklist or SOP outlining
    the procedures in place for completing a Site Survey, as
    well as a completed Site Survey for every flight.
  • A Site Survey can be done electronically, verbally, or on paper.
    If the flight is being conducted in controlled airspace,
    permission needs to be requested via the NAV Drone
  • The NAV Drone Portal can be used for Basic operations
    in uncontrolled airspace. Using NAV Drone Satisfies the
    requirements outlined in 901.27.

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

(a) the boundaries of the area of operation;

(b) the type of airspace and the applicable regulatory

(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

(g) the predominant weather and environmental conditions for the area of operation; and

(h) the horizontal distances from persons not involved
in the operation.

Checklists and SOPs are a vital part of the industry, and making sure each pilot has access to proper checklists is vital for safe
flight. Remember, SOPs don’t need to be complicated, but they need to be followed, so make sure your SOPs are realistic for real world flight!

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