Important information for MAAC Members in 2023
February 27, 2023
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 Information for MAAC members to comply with Transport Canada CARS

 Information for MAAC members to comply with Transport Canada CARS Part IX

 

February 25, 2023

Recently, we became aware that Transport Canada revoked the exemption that previously allowed model aircraft flyers to operate remote-controlled aircraft without holding a RPAS (remotely piloted aircraft system) certificate in either uncontrolled or controlled airspace, as long as their MAAC membership remained valid.  Now, in order to operate any remotely controlled aircraft, or RPAS, in Canada that weighs 250 grams or more the operator must have at least a Basic Pilot Certificate or an Advanced Pilot Certificate, depending on where their field is located.

This guide will list the steps required to obtain certification, what rules apply to what situation, and identify which training and courses are available for model aircraft flyers.

In this guide, Transport Canada typically refers to RPAS as drones, but in that name we include model airplanes, helicopters, and any other heavier-than-air remotely-controlled aircraft that weighs between 250g and 25kg.  Just a quick note as it’s beyond the scope of this article, but if you wanted to operate an R/C aircraft that weighs 25 kilograms or more, you will need to apply for a Special Flight Operation Certificate (SFOC) in conjunction with an Advanced Pilot Certificate.

 

RPAS Operations Categories – Which one applies to me?

 

Transport Canada breaks down drone laws initially by weight.  If you’ve got a drone that weighs 249 grams (0.54 lbs) or less, including batteries and any accessories required for flight, you’re in the micro-RPAS category.

If your new model aircraft weighs 250 grams or more (up to 25 kilograms, or 55 lbs) your R/C falls in the Small RPAS category.  Transport Canada officially calls this the Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) category, but for simplicity, we typically refer to this class as “small drones” or just drones.  This small drone category includes R/C Airplanes, Helicopters, and other heavier-than-air remotely controlled aircraft.

 

Check our Ultimate Drone Pilot Guide for more info about micro-drones.

If you only fly sub-250g remote-controlled aircraft, jump to our “Ultimate Drone Guide” article to check out more about where you can, or can’t, fly a micro-RPAS.

Small 250g-25kg RC Aircraft (RPAS) – Registration & Certification Step By Step

Most RPAS operations in Canada will fall under this category.

The entirety of CARS 901 (Part IX Subpart 1) is dedicated to Small RPAS operations which means, any remotely piloted aircraft system that weighs from 250 grams up to 25 kg.  For MAAC R/C Fliers that are transitioning from exemption to Transport Canada RPAS rules, this is the ruleset where you will be most likely to operate within.

 

 

Step 1 – Registering your Model Aircraft

The first mandatory step, is your model aircraft must be registered via the TC Drone Management Portal, and the C- registration number must be affixed to your aircraft in a way that is durable and legible without requiring the removal of a panel with tools to identify.  (This means, you can put the label behind a battery door to maintain the aesthetic of your aircraft, but only if you don’t need a screwdriver to open the battery door).

To get to the Drone Management Portal, visit https://tc.canada.ca/en/aviation/drone-safety/drone-management-portal

 

Drone Management Portal MAAC

In order to log in, you will need to either use your GC Key, or a valid sign-in partner such as your online bank.  If you’ve visited the CRA My Account page or other Government Sites in the past, you can use the same credentials. 

Drone Management Portal Sign In Transport Canada

If you select Sign-In Partner, you will be brought to the Interac Sign-In Service, where you can choose your online banking provider, and log in with those credentials.  (Don’t worry, you’re not providing the government with access to your bank account by doing this!)

Drone Management Portal sign in credential MAAC

Once you’re logged in, you’ll see a portal page similar to this, where you can register a drone, manage your list of active drones, or take an online RPAS exam. Our first step is going to be to register a drone, as highlighted in yellow.

Transport Canada Drone Management Portal MAAC

The process is relatively quick and costs $5 to process the aircraft. At the end, you will be able to download a PDF of your registration and view a list of all aircraft you’ve registered in your portal.

Transport Canada Drone Management Portal Register a drone

It’s most likely that you’re going to be registering a custom-built aircraft, which means we will need to provide some details.  If you only plan to fly your aircraft in Basic Operations (never in controlled airspace, near bystanders, and never near airports or heliports) then you can choose the second option for a kit-built aircraft.

Choose the type of aircraft (fixed wing or rotary wing) and choose the appropriate weight category (250g to 25kg), and then describe the aircraft as best as possible in a concise manner.

 ——

Note, if you want to fly your model aircraft at a field inside controlled airspace, near bystanders (within 100′), or within 3NM of an airport or 1NM of a heliport, you will need to provide an associated safety assurance declaration for your aircraft.  This is a much more extensive process that is captured in our Advanced Operations guide.

Once you’ve entered your details, you will need to pay for the registration. 

 

You will then be issued a certificate number, and a PDF will be available for download.  You can also see a list of your registered aircraft by going back to the main portal page, and selecting “View Drones” under the list.  

Clicking on the C-2301xxxx number will download a PDF copy of your Certificate of Registration. This must be kept handy when flying, along with your pilot certificate, as well as your checklists and the aircraft manual. 

Finally, affix a label to your aircraft with the C-XXXXXX number in a legible and durable manner that can be identified even after a crash.  As mentioned, the label doesn’t need to be visible from the air, but does need to be accessible without having to use tools to remove a panel.

Step 2 – Getting your Pilot Certificate

In order to comply with CARS Part IX requirements to fly a model aircraft that weighs 250g or more, you will need to obtain at least a Basic Certificate.  Good news is, as you will read below, if you fly away from airports, outside of controlled airspace, and away from bystanders, you shouldn’t need any higher level of certification.

If your MAAC field is situated within controlled airspace (Class A through E), or within 3 nautical miles (5.6km) of an airport (aka a certified aerodrome) or a heliport (a certified helipad), you must hold an advanced certificate, and further, your aircraft must carry a safety assurance declaration that complies with TC Advisory Circular 922-001 for operations in controlled airspace.

Breakdown between Basic and Advanced Operations

Basic RPAS Operations:

Upon registration of a RPAS weighing 250 grams or more, and upon completion of the Basic Online exam, a remote pilot in Canada may perform the following flights with a Basic Pilot Certificate:

  • More than 3NM (5.6KM) away from Airports.
  • More than 1NM (2KM) away from Heliports.
  • Outside of Controlled Airspace.
  • More than 100 ft (30 Meters) horizontal distance away from persons not considered essential to the drone operation (bystanders).
  • The aircraft must be kept within visual line of sight at all times. (This includes FPV, where a spotter must be used.)
  • The aircraft must not be flown more than 400′ above ground at any time, except within 200′ of a structure, and only 100′ above that structure.
Where you can, and can't fly with a Basic Certificate.

How to obtain your Basic Pilot Certificate:

Create a profile on the Drone Management Portal, and register your aircraft.

You will need to be a minimum 14 years of age to qualify for the Basic Pilot Certificate.

Study for the Basic Online Exam with our online, on-demand training course and sample test questions.  Take the online test, and pass with a score of 65% or better.

Develop your own checklists and standard operating procedures for site surveys, pre-flight, flight, and emergencies as required by CARS, with help from our included standard operating procedures guide.

Every 24 months, ensure you maintain your pilot certificate by completing an approved recency exercise.

Be sure to ask your MAAC club member for the special member discount code to save 10% at checkout.

 

Advanced RPAS Operations:

In order to qualify for Advanced Drone operations in Canada, there are several requirements on both the pilot and the drone (RPAS) to be used for the advanced flight.  For MAAC members transitioning to regular CARS Part IX, what this means, is that if you want to fly a custom-built or retail RTF airplane or R/C helicopter, you will need to follow the process below.  The key point to remember, is, you need 3 things to fly an RPAS in controlled airspace:  An Advanced Pilot certificate, A registered RPAS with a Safety Assurance Declaration, and written Permission from NAV Canada via the NAV Drone app.

Advanced Pilot Requirements:

To conduct advanced operations, the pilot in command must complete the Advanced Online Exam with a passing score of 80% or better and subsequently complete a TP15395 Flight Review, which is an in-person knowledge and proficiency exercise.

The flight review is required before an Advanced Pilot Certificate can be issued.  The flight review typically takes about 90 minutes and involves a document and procedure review, a verbal knowledge confirmation, and finally a flight skill demonstration.

Transport Canada considers 3 drone operations (within the scope of 250g-25kg flights) to be routine Advanced Operations:

  1. Flights Near People (Less than 30M horizontal distance to bystanders, but not closer than 5M)
  2. Flights Over People (Less than 5M horizontal distance to bystanders, at any approved altitude)
  3. Flight in Controlled Airspace (Class A, B, C, D, E)

 

Will a RPAS Flight Reviewer accept my model airplane?

Coastal Drone Flight Reviewers are approved to conduct the RPAS advanced flight review on any aircraft that is 250g or more, and has a valid certificate of registration.  If the MAAC field you fly at is within controlled airspace, the aircraft must have a safety assurance declaration in compliance with CARS 922.04 to fly in controlled airspace, and you must coordinate approval to fly with Nav Drone.

In terms of flying skills, the flight review practical flight demonstration portion is as per TP15395, and requires the following:

Performance criteria
Assessment will be based on the candidate’s ability to:

maintain a stable airspeed, cruising altitude, and heading
navigate by applying systematic navigation techniques
orient the RPAS to the direction of flight
navigate around an obstacle or fixed point
determine the position of the aircraft with respect to distance and altitude from the candidate
apply an organized method that would:
a) verify the position of the aircraft
b) revise headings to correct any existing track error to maintain the aircraft’s position due to wind
c) confirm or revise the battery power available at the destination landing point with a degree of accuracy that would make arrival assured
d) confirm current fuel/power levels vs requirements for the flight

 

Can I fly my airplane in controlled airspace?

In order to qualify for flights in any of the three above scenarios, the remote aircraft must be accompanied by a Manufacturer’s Safety Assurance Declaration specific to the category of flight that the RPAS has been proven to be safely operated.  There are specific criteria that the drone must demonstrate capabilities in, in order to be accurately declared considered safe to fly.

For example, to fly in Over People operations, most multi-rotor quadcopters would require some sort of ballistic recovery device, such as a parachute, in order to arrest the rate of descent in the event of a systems failure and prevent injury to persons below the drone.  This declaration often includes a minimum operating altitude to allow for the parachute to deploy safely.  In most cases, model aircraft with a fixed wing configuration would likely not need a parachute to fly over people due to their ability to glide away in the event of propulsion failure.

You can’t just fly anywhere:

Holders of an Advanced Pilot Certificate and approved drone aren’t automatically approved to conduct Advanced operations wherever they see fit.  In order to fly in controlled airspace, approval from the Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP), Nav Canada for the most part, is required prior to take-off.  This usually involved NavDrone, which is an app submitting for time-limited, region-specific flight authorization requests.

Advanced RPAS Operations MAAC

Advanced RPAS Operations:

Upon registration of an RPAS weighing 250 grams or more, and upon completion of the Advanced Online exam and in-person flight review, a remote pilot in Canada may perform the following flights with an Advanced Pilot Certificate:

  • Flights near and over Airports with coordination with the operator.
  • Flights near and over Heliports with coordination with the operator.
  • Flights in controlled airspace with approval from the Air Navigation Service Provider
  • Flights near and over people, with appropriate manufacturer’s safety assurance declaration.
  • The remote aircraft must be kept within visual line of sight at all times. (This includes FPV, where a spotter must be used.)
  • The remote aircraft must not be flown more than 400′ above ground at any time, except within 200′ of a structure, and only 100′ above that structure.

How to obtain your Advanced Pilot Certificate:

If you haven’t already been flying under Basic operations, despite your MAAC exemption, create a profile on the Drone Management Portal, and register your aircraft.

 You will need to be a minimum of 16 years of age to qualify for the Advanced Pilot Certificate.

Study for the Advanced Online Exam with our online, on-demand training course and sample test questions, and write the exam with a passing grade of 80% or better.

Develop your own checklists and standard operating procedures for site surveys, pre-flight, flight, and emergencies as required by CARS with help from our included SOP Guide.

Demonstrate your operational procedures, knowledge, and skills with a Transport Canada-approved flight reviewer in person.

Every 24 months, ensure you maintain your pilot certificate by completing an approved recency exercise.

The RC Pilot Package includes everything we offer in our advanced drone ground school, PLUS the flight review online prep course, as well as a special guidance on Safety Assurance Declarations for getting your model aircraft ready to fly in controlled airspace. 

Be sure to ask your MAAC club member for the special member discount code to save 10% at checkout.

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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