Transport Canada’s drone regulations proposed to go into effect this year would vary based on the risks of operating in a given location and will not distinguish between recreational and commercial operators, according to the agency.
The new rules would retain the Special Flight Operations Certificate process for operators of drones weighing more than 55 lb (25 kg). But operators of drones weighing fewer than that would be exempt from the process, potentially easing the agency’s workload and reducing the delay for applicants.
In a May 2015 Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA), Transport Canada said a rapid increase in applications for special certificates—granted to commercial unmanned aircraft operators on a case-by-case basis—is one reason it decided to revise existing regulations.
“The growth of the UAV industry has resulted in growing numbers of SFOC applications to Transport Canada,” said the notice. In 2014, Transport Canada said, it 1,672 such certificates for drones, compared to 945 in 2013 and 345 in 2012.
Other reasons it cited included promoting safety without constraining innovation and being on par with rules proposed by other countries, such as the U.S.
From the applicant’s perspective, another notable change is that the new rules would depend on where drones are operating rather than whether they are commercial. For example, stricter flight training qualifications and operating rules would be required to fly drones near aerodromes and major cities where they present great risk.
Under such a system, even hobbyists might be classified according to the proposal as “Small UAVs (Complex Operations)” if they operate within 5 nm of “cities, towns or villages.” In that case, they also would have to obtain a pilot permit along with meeting other requirements.