Commercial, Regulatory

New Canadian Drone Regulations to Go Into Effect on June 1

By Frank Wolfe | March 14, 2019
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A DJI Phantom 4 drone

Canada will put new regulations into effect on June 1 that require the registration of small drones and licenses for those that fly them.

"Drone pilots must carry a valid drone pilot certificate and only fly drones that are marked and registered," according to the new regulations.

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Marc Garneau, Canada’s Minister of Transport, unveiled the new regulatory framework in January for the operation of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).

All drones "with a maximum takeoff weight of 250 grams (g) up to and including 25 kilograms (kg) must be registered," according to the new regulations. "Drones under 250 g do not need to be registered. Drones over 25 kg also do not need to be registered, but require a special flight operations certificate [SFOC] instead."

Under Canadian Aviation Regulations (CAR), there are two categories of drone operations--recreational and commercial--and requirements for RPAS operations vary according to drone weight. For example, recreational operation of an RPAS under 35 kg does not require any type of licence or permit under the current regulations, whereas commercial operation of the same drone requires that the pilot carry an SFOC.

"The new incarnation of the CAR drone framework represents a substantial change in the way RPAS are regulated in Canada," according to the Toronto-based law firm of McCarthy Tétrault LLP. "This new regime requires for the first time pilot licences and the registration of drones, while streamlining operational requirements and eliminating the need for SFOCs in respect of some operations involving drones up to 25 kg.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."

McCarthy Tétrault LLP called the new regulations "a dramatic re-fashioning of the way RPAS with a mass of up to 25 kg are regulated in Canada."

On March 12, the Chinese-based DJI, a top consumer drone manufacturer, announced that nine of its drone models comply with Canada's new regulations. The compliant models are the M600 Series, M200 Series, M200 V2 Series, Inspire 2, Mavic 2 series, Mavic Pro, Mavic Air, Phantom 4 series and Spark, according to DJI.

"While DJI drones meet our own high quality assurance requirements, we have spent the last few months diligently reviewing our documentation, safety standards and administrative processes to ensure they comply with Transport Canada’s new requirements,” David Hansell, the public policy manager for DJI, said in a statement. “We can now declare official compliance with those requirements, allowing our customers to use our drones in controlled airspace without interruption.”

Drone tracking has become a top issue globally since drones shut down operations at Gatwick International Airport near London last December.

In the United States, an interim final rule by the Federal Aviation Administration, which took effect on Feb. 25, "requires small unmanned aircraft owners to display the unique identifier assigned by the FAA upon completion of the registration process (registration number) on an external surface of the aircraft."

In a 2015 rule, the FAA initially permitted small drones to have their registration numbers concealed inside the aircraft as a concession to the television and motion picture industry, which did not want markings to show in theatrical and television productions, and hobbyists who wanted to preserve the authenticity of their model aircraft.

But law enforcement officials highlighted the possible risk to first responders, if such drones had bombs in their inside compartments, rather than registration numbers.

Industry observers believe that the FAA will eventually require all aircraft flying in the National Airspace System n the U.S., including hobby drones and light sport aircraft, to be equipped with a Remote ID system.

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