Where Can I Fly My Drone in Vancouver

Flying Your Drone in Vancouver, British Columbia

Are you flying your drone in or around Vancouver, British Columbia? As Transport Canada states “Drones are aircraft – which makes you a pilot. When you fly your drone, you’re sharing the skies with other drones and aircraft. Before you fly, understand the rules you must follow…”

All drone pilots must follow the rules in the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARS) which can be found here on Transport Canada’s website.

 

The above image has been circulating the internet (reddit) regarding where you can and can’t fly your drone in Vancouver. The image provides a general idea of some unsafe areas, but you should do more due-diligence before you set out to capture some beautiful footage of the Vancouver area.

 

Vancouver and the surrounding area has some of the most beautiful scenery in Canada. Naturally individuals love to capture it with their drones. Professional pilots fly drones to capture Vancouver Tourism work, Construction, Surveys and many other practices.  It’s important to know and understand the laws around flying your drone in Vancouver. While federal legislation has been passed, by laws can also come in to effect in specific areas and it’s important you research them before you head out to fly your drone in and around Vancouver.

Film permits from the City of Vancouver are required for any professional video production, similar to traditional film work throughout the city. You can find more information here.

 

Here’s what the City of Vancouver currently has to say about drone permitting as of January 2023:

Drone permitting guidelines

Transport Canada  regulations and all Provincial and Federal privacy laws must be followed for all use of drones when filming in the City of Vancouver.

 

To get a film permit for the use of a drone, you will be required to get an aviation liability insurance in addition to the general liability insurance for filming. Your master film licence agreement will provide further details on these insurance requirements.

 

 Flight path restrictions may also be imposed over certain areas and parks to protect wildlife; such as birds during nesting season.

 

(source: https://vancouver.ca/doing-business/film-permits.aspx)

 

Common questions asked about where you can fly your drone in and around Vancouver:

Can I fly my drone in Stanley Park?

  • While there’s not yet the bylaw in place to outright ban recreational drone flying in Stanley Park (it’s coming though!), it’s a terrible place to fly a drone. You’re on an approach path with lots of low-flying helicopters and float planes and there are many sensitive wildlife habitats including eagles, which have been known to take down small drones. It is possible to fly there with an advanced certification, but requires prior permission from NAV Canada and the parks board.

Can I fly my drone in Golden Ears Park?

  • No, drones are not allowed in any provincial or national parks without prior permission, which is challenging to get.

Can I fly my drone near the ocean at one of Vancouver’s beaches?

  • It depends. A sub 250g drone can probably be flown safely and legally. We’d recommend you land if you see/hear any aircraft and don’t go much higher than treeline. If your drone is over 250g like a Mavic 3 or Air 2S, it’ll be tough to maintain 30m from bystanders which would include other beachgoers, boaters, etc like is required with a basic certification, not to mention fly in the controlled airspace that surrounds most of Vancouver. If you’re an advanced certificate holder you can most likely do so as long as you follow your SOPs including a site survey and minimum distances from bystanders established prior to flight, and obtain flight authorization from NavDrone.

Can I use my drone on top of a Vancouver park or school?

  • With schools, if you can meet the requirements of your certification, then yes! It’s best practice to make sure you have permission of the property owner before you use their land to launch and land. Be cautious of operating around kids who may not understand the risk of spinning propeller blades.
  • Parks are trickier. There’s currently bylaws on the table to prevent recreational drone flying in Vancouver parks. Commercial flying (either with a basic or advanced certifcation) is permitted with proper process and permission.

How can I find out exactly where I can fly my drone in and around Vancouver?

  • There aren’t any maps that say “fly here!” but you can use some of the resources below to help. Start with airspace. Avoid flying in busy, controlled airspace even if your drone is under 250g. While possible, it’s not smart, particularly with the amount of air traffic in and around Vancouver harbour and the hospitals.  The float operations run from dawn until dusk so find some time outside of that and get permission as applicable.
  • Avoid areas with people who might complain. Try to go somewhere that’s not populated and give people a heads up whenever possible.

Can I fly my drone downtown Vancouver?

  • If you can operate within the restrictions of your certification, then yes! If you’re flying for work, you may need a film permit particularly if you’re operating off of City of Vancouver property.

How much is the fine if I fly my drone somewhere in Vancouver I’m not supposed to?

  • $3000 per infraction. So if you’re not certified, flying an unregistered drone in controlled airspace and get caught because you’re too near to people, you’re looking at up to $12000.

 

 

Important links for Vancouver Drone Pilots:

Flying your drone safely and legally – Transport Canada
Drone site selection tool – National Research Council Canada
Canadian Airspace Viewer
British Columbia Wildfire Service – Fire Bans & Restrictions
Use of Drones & Drone Filming – University of British Columbia (UBC)
Images taken outdoors by drones (policy) – Simon Fraser University (SFU)
City of Vancouver Bylaw database

 

 

Where to fly your drone in Vancouver – Legally

Now that we’ve covered some of the basic rules, let’s talk about some potential scenic fly spots in Vancouver that could be good for new pilots.  All of these spots below are in Class G or Class F uncontrolled airspace, which means as long as you don’t fly near people (stay more than 30M away at all times, and all altitudes) you can fly with a Basic Certificate.

NAV Drone gives you a great starting point to identify the airspace in which you are allowed to fly a drone.  As you can see, much of Vancouver proper is controlled airspace and denoted as a no-fly-zone for Basic Pilots from the Second Narrows Bridge, Westminister, and Delta westward.  This is because of the proximity to Vancouver Harbour Seaplane base, Vancouver International Airport, and Boundary Bay airport.  Let’s dig in to some options in the surround white (uncontrolled) areas.

As we zoom in on Burnaby and Coquitlam, we can see we’re in uncontrolled airspace at the surface, however, we’ve also changed the base map to “Coloured with Labels” which allows us to identify the green spaces (parks) on the map.  

Here’s what we found for Burnaby Parks Bylaws:

“…no person shall in or on any
park:
(a) play golf or strike a golf ball,
(b) fly any motor driven airplane, or glider,
(c) shoot an arrow or practice archery,
(d) take part in any ball game,
(e) launch any power rocket
except in areas allotted or designated by the Administrator for such purposes.
(Source THE CORPORATION OF THE DISTRICT OF BURNABY – BYLAW NO. 7331 (1979) )

The bylaw may be a bit outdated, but it would be easy to link the interpretation of “motor-driven airplane” to include remotely piloted aircraft, so your mileage may vary (YMMV).  So, with that in mind, let’s avoid parks in Burnaby.

What about Coquitlam Parks?

Similar story, similar bylaw:

No person shall engage in activities involving high speed projectiles, including golf, archery, war games, radio controlled aircraft or cars in a Park or Community Facility unless such activities are specifically authorized by a valid Facility Use License.

(Source CITY OF COQUITLAM – Consolidation Bylaw No. 3617, 2004)

So, parks are out, despite what some other SEO-optimized websites may offer, you can’t operate a drone at any park in these two without first gaining permission.  Finding a spot isn’t going to be as easy.

Private Property in Metro Vancouver

If you can get permission from the landholder, and you’re in Class G airspace (or have NAV Drone approval with an Advanced Pilot Certificate), you’re good to go.  As you can see, most public areas are going to require some sort of permit to fly a drone. 

Caveat emptor – Your permission to use the land is no different than trespass, if the land is unmarked, unposted, and no signage exists that prevents you from standing on that land and or operating a drone, you’re unlikely to find yourself in hot water.  If you find yourself flying on what appears to be crown land, and get asked to leave or stop flying at that location by a law enforcement official, you’ve officially been told to stop and must respect that instruction.

Vancouver School Fields

Here’s what was accessed from Vancouver School Board’s facility rental page:

Restrictions/Behaviour for use of school grounds

School grounds, courts and play structures continue to be available for casual use by the public outside of school hours.  However, during school hours, school property is for exclusive use of schools.

 Community coaching and organized activities on school grounds (i.e. fields, blacktop, uncover areas, parking lots) is only permitted with a valid rental contract.

 Use of school property must not result in property damage or unreasonably interfere with the ability of adjacent or neighbouring property owners or occupiers to the enjoyment of their own homes or property, including when due to vandalism, excessive noise, garbage or abusive or threatening or unsafe behaviour.  Painting lines on black top, covered areas, parking lots, etc. or adding basketball hoops to structures is not permitted.

So, based on what we could find published online as of January 2023, it looks like you could use a school field for drone flight practice, as long as you did not become a nuisance to other users of the field, or violate Transport Canada regulations and distance limitations.  You will need an Advanced Certificate to fly at any VSB facility due to the overlapping controlled airspace, as well as Nav Drone approval.  Remember, be a good citizen, and if bystanders show up, it’s time for you to leave.  You don’t have a first-come-first-serve right to the field.

Coquitlam School Fields 

According to Administrative Procedure 562, after-hours use of Coquitlam School District (No. 43) facilities fall to Coquitlam Parks & Leisure Services, so the Coquitlam parks bylaws would apply to these facilities.

Burnaby School Fields

The City of Burnaby Parks Allotment manages the booking and use of sports fields, and you can apply to book a field or facility and find more information here.  It’s likely that Burnaby Parks bylaws also apply at these facilities.

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