Restrictions Effectively Ground Recreational Drones in Canada

Published on: 2017/03/20 - in Science & Tech

This past week, Transport Canada issued new safety rules for recreational drone use.

The rules are in effect now and were introduced to “protect Canadians from reckless drone use”.

Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau, announced the measures on March 16 at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, accompanied by representatives of the RCMP and the Toronto Police Force.

“I take very seriously the increased risk to aviation safety and to people on the ground caused by drones,” said Minister Garneau. “That is why I am proceeding with this measure which takes effect immediately—to enhance the safety of aviation and the public while we work to bring into force permanent regulations.”

The rules apply to the operation of model aircraft and recreational drones of more than 250 g and up to 35 kg across Canada.

According to a media release and published graphic (below), do not fly a drone:

  • higher than 90m
  • closer than 75 m from buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals, people/crowds, etc.
  • closer than 9 km from the centre of an aerodrome incl. any airport, heliport, seaplane base or anywhere that aircraft take-off and land
  • within controlled or restricted airspace
  • within 9km of a forest fire
  • where you could interfere with police or first responders
  • at night or in clouds
  • if you can’t keep it in sight at all times
  • if you are not within 500 m of your drone
  • if your name, address and telephone number are not clearly marked on your drone.

If all rules are not followed, drone operators may face a fine of up to $3000. The restrictions will be in effect for a period of up to one year until permanent regulations are put in place.

The Ministry also asks that you call 911 or your local law enforcement agency immediately if you witness illegal drone use.

Members of the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada in good standing who operate at MAAC sanctioned fields or events are not subject to these rules. Operators of drones for commercial, academic or research purposes are not affected by this measure but are expected to follow the rules that are already in place.

Critics of the new rules point out there is virtually nowhere in the country that completely eliminates the chance of one or more of these restrictions being inadvertently violated, for example the chance of an animal – such as a squirrel or stray cat, etc. – coming on scene within 75 metres of a drone while it is in flight.

UPDATE: Transport Canada has posted clarification of the “animal” portion of these rules (although the ‘letter of the law’ continues to remain vague):

National Research Council Canada provides a map showing restricted airspace for drones based only on distances from airports, aerodromes, and prisons across Canada. Kingston map below.

Photo: PixaBay (pd)