Did Transport Canada Just Ground the Canadian Hobbyist Drone Market?

Transport Canada just put in force an order regarding the recreational use of model aircraft, enforceable by a $3,000 fine. Details are in the graphic below and on the Transport Canada Web site.

Operation of a drone over 35 kg, or for commercial use, has not changed, and still requires a Special Flight Operations Certificate.

Restrictions on flying near airports and aircraft are understandable.

But you can’t operate a model aircraft “at a lateral distance of less than 250 feet (75m) from buildings, structures, vehicles, vessels, animals and the public including spectators, bystanders or any person not associated with the operation of the aircraft”.

If we think about that, it leaves almost nowhere to fly. You can’t fly it with a friend within 250 feet – unless somehow the friend is “associated with the operation of the aircraft”. And what is meant by not operating within 250 feet of animals? If you are in a remote area away from buildings and vehicles, there is likely to be some kind of animal nearby.

Given how restrictive these rules are, not many people will want to own one, and those who already own one may have trouble finding a place to fly it.

The Drone Manufacturers Alliance “believes new drone regulations announced today by Transport Canada will provide only a negligible increase in safety while sharply curtailing the ability of Canadians to explore, photograph their country, and teach their children about science and technology.”

They also said “The Drone Manufacturers Alliance expects all our members’ customers to fly safely and responsibly, and our years of experience show that technology and education provide a better solution than a hastily-written ban.

Aviation authorities around the world have never recorded a single confirmed collision between a civilian drone and a traditional aircraft. Indeed, many initial drone sightings reported by aircraft pilots have turned out to be birds, balloons or even a plastic bag.”

The only realistic drone to purchase now in Canada are those that weigh 250 grams (0.55 pounds) or less, which are exempt from the rules. Drones that small may not be as capable as larger ones, but they do exist.



  1. Much of the regulation is ill thought out, from the areas where drones are banned to the weight limit.

    The aerodrome limitation is overbroad as it covers far too much area in most urban centres. For example, using Google maps as a rough measuring tool, most of Winnipeg would be un-flyable because of Winnipeg Airport in the west end, a small air ambulance HQ Heli-port near downtown and a small private airfield near the southeast edge of the city. And it’s just not the city that is affected. Flying in Birds Hill park, a very popular provincial park that is approx. 9km NE from Winnipeg would also be no go as there is as small public airfield 8 km to the west of the park.

    As for the 75m people, building etc ban, this means you could not launch your drone in most residential areas unless you are using a large parking lot or park that can be as there’s no other way you could be 75m away from houses and vehicles.

    Finally, the weight limit would mean a $40 drone that is marketed as a child’s toy and would struggle to fly at 75m would be subject to the regulations.

  2. The real problem with the regulations is they effectively kill all model aircraft hobbies which have a long safety record – gliders, slope soaring, park fliers, amphibious aircraft and more are now illegal.

    It is clear these rules do not consider how they affect the general public and are written for industry. I am attempting a public petition to the house of commons to have our hobbies considered in the regulations.


  3. This link (https://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/solutions/collaborative/civuas/uav_site_selection_tool.html ) is to an NRC map that shows the no-fly zones around “aerodromes”. One caveat is that I believe the smaller circles around heliports is now wrong with the new rules, and should be the larger 9 km circles.

    When you factor in things like hospital heliports, and small runways that most people don’t know even exist, airport no fly zones cover huge amounts of area. They look to cover about 1/2 of Southern Ontario, for example.

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