Canadian drone laws Transport Canada logo

It took a while for Canada to enact dedicated drone laws, but when they did, they went all out. Canada has some of the strictest drone laws in the world, that being said, the result will make for some of the safest skies in the world. If you live in Canada, or plan to visit the country with your drone, here are a few Canadian drone laws you should know.

Related reading: International Drone laws

Canadian Drone safety

The Government of Canada has a superb site to understand the drone laws, other laws around drones, and to obtain your certification before you fly. That’s right, all drones over 250 grams (up to 25KG) must be registered, and the pilot must hold certification for either hobby or advanced operations. The full list of requirements is robust, but easy to understand. This short list is copied straight from the government website.

Source: Transport Canada 

Before you fly

  1. Understand your legal requirements when flying drones
  2. Understand the difference between basic and advanced operations
  3. Get the necessary knowledge requirements
  4. Get a drone pilot certificate
  5. Choose the right drone if you want to perform advanced operations
  6. Register your drone
  7. Follow your drone manufacturer’s instructions
  8. Survey the area where you will fly
    • Take note of any obstacles, such as buildings and power lines
  9. Advanced operations only – to operate in controlled airspace (Classes C, D or E) you need to ask NAV CANADA for an RPAS Flight Authorization

Drone Licenses

The Canadian Government offers two drone pilot certifications: Basic and Advanced. Basic certification allows you to fly outside of controlled airspace, at more than 30 meters (100 feet) from bystanders and never over top of bystanders. Violation of any of these three things automatically makes the flight an Advanced operation. That’s right, as long as you pass the Advanced certification test, and a flight review, you can fly over top of people, something the FAA does not allow.

When you wish to fly in controlled airspace, you must seek permission from air traffic control, often straight from NAV Canada. You are asking for an RPAS Flight Authorization. Without authorization, you cannot fly in the controlled airspace.

The 250 gram exception

If your drone weighs less than 250 grams, such as the DJI Mavic Mini or many other mini and nano drones, you do not need to register your drone before flight. For these Micro Drones, as they call them, you do not need to acquire pilot certification either. The rule states simply that you must never put people or aircraft in danger and always fly responsibly. This is a welcome rule for all youth that just want to fly a toy in the backyard.

International Drone Laws globe dji mavic 2 pro

Basic flight rules and guidelines

Much like the hobby pilot rules from the FAA, Transport Canada has as short list of guidelines for your flight.

  • Keep your drone where you can see it at all times
  • Fly below 122 meter (400 feet) above the ground
  • Keep your drone at least 30 meters (100 feet) away from bystanders
  • Do not fly near emergency operations or events, such as forest fires, parades or concerts
  • Keep your drone 5.6KM ( 3 miles) away from airports, 1.9KM (1 mile) away from helipads
  • Acquire authorization to fly in controlled airspace
  • Do not fly anywhere near other aircraft

While we understand and agree that drones should stay far away from manned aircraft, this last one is awkward for us, as it states you must not fly “anywhere near… other drones.” Does this mean you cannot fly racing drones with your friends at the park? We have submitted a request for verification, we’ll update when we get an answer. Update: According to Transport Canada “Drone racing events that are outdoors and advertised are Special Aviation Events and need to get a Special Aviation Event Special Flight Operations Certificate from Transport Canada.” Otherwise, they reiterate that you must fly so that you do not endanger other people or aircraft. We understand not endangering other drones in the sky, but they want you to follow hobby club guidelines for your racing events.

Break the law, pay the price!

There are published penalties for breaking the drone laws, ranging from $1,000 up to $15,000 each. For individuals, flying without a pilot certificate, flying an unregistered or unmarked drone, or flying in a place you are not allowed can each cost you $1,000. Should you put aircraft or people at risk, a $3,000 fine is possible. These stack, you could receive a total of $6,000 in fines per incident if you break all the rules.

Corporations receive fines for the exact same violations, valued at $5,000 and $15,000 in the same order. Breaking all the rules for work could result in a total of $30,000 in fines.

Fly safe

Remember, flight safety is your responsibility. Please take the time to get to know your equipment, maintain it, and learn how to fly before you take to the skies in a big way. The penalties for violating the Canadian drone laws are fairly severe, and the process to become a certificated pilot seems daunting, but we believe in you. We plan to post more content on this topic, we may even head up to Canada to get our own certification, so we can better explain and help you pass your test. For now, Transport Canada recommends you attend a drone flight school.

Learn more at the Transport Canada website


Don’t live in Canada?

International Drone Laws