Where Can I Fly My Drone in Canada – The Ultimate Guide
Determining where you can fly your drone in Canada isn’t always as simple as you might think. In this blog post we will give you the tools to determine what type of drone certificate you need to fly your drone where you want to. We’ll also point you in the right direction to make sure that you also consider how other laws may impact where and when you may fly your drone.
In Canada, if you only have a Basic Drone Certificate, then you will not be allowed to fly your drone near airports or in most major cities. To open up the ability to fly in those areas, sign up for our Advanced Drone Pilot Bundle here.
Airspace Restrictions for Drones in Canada
Very generally, for Basic operations in Canada you are not permitted to fly a drone within 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) of a certified airport or military aerodrome or within 1 nautical mile (1.9 km) of a heliport. If we only applied this definition to the airspace around Vancuover, for example, then you may think that over half of the city of Vancouver was flyable with a Basic Drone Certificate, but that is not the case. In fact, in Vancouver there is only an incredibly small sliver of the city where you are allowed to fly with a Basic Certificate and the reason for this is something called a Terminal Control Area.
Terminal Control Area
A terminal control area is an area of airspace near larger airports where there is a high volume of traffic. In these areas the airspace is more restricted to reduce the amount of aircraft in the area, thereby making it easier and safer to control the traffic. You can find terminal control areas around all of Canada’s major airports and many of their secondary airports also. These areas often extend up to 6 nautical miles away from an airport, but not always. They also sometimes have unusual shapes due to other airports and terrain
Drone Site Selection Tool
Luckily there is an interactive map called the Drone Site Selection Tool. This is a map that has been published by the National Research Council. You can set filters on the map that will show you where you can fly a drone with a Basic or an Advanced certificate. To use this map, navigate to the following URL: https://nrc.canada.ca/en/drone-tool/ and you will see a page that looks like this:
Click on the icon near the top left of the map that looks like this: There you will see that you can choose the category of operation that you would like to conduct. By default, the category of operation is set to “Basic”. To zoom in or out, hold “Ctrl” and scroll up or down on your mousewheel to see your location in greater detail. With the operation set to Basic, all of the red areas show where you are not allowed to fly if you only have a Basic Drone Certificate. If you then select the “Advanced” operation from the same menu on the left, then you will see that all of the red disappears from the map.
Although the Advanced certificate does open up the airspace to drones across the country, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t any restrictions. In order to fly close to an airport with an Advanced certificate, you still need to receive permission from Nav Canada prior to your flight. Nav Canada is the organization that is responsible for managing air traffic services within Canada and they request 48 hours of notice prior to flying if you are flying anywhere that requires an Advanced certificate.
Other Legal Obligations for Drone Operators
Not only do you need to consider local airspace restrictions, but you also need to consider other laws when flying your drone. You should consult the following documents before you fly your drone:
- Relevant sections of the Criminal Code, including Offences against Air or Maritime Safety, Breaking and Entering, and Mischief
- Your province’s trespass act
- Laws related to voyeurism and privacy
- Local bylaws
You must respect the privacy rights of others when you fly.