New safety rules for recreational drone use in Canada take immediate effect

Canadians expect to feel safe on the ground and in the sky. The number of incidents involving recreational drones has more than tripled since 2014, prompting Marc Garneau, Canadian Minister of Transport, to introduce a measure to prevent the reckless use of drones that is putting the safety of Canadians at risk.

A college instructor flies a small drone inside a facility in London, Ontario.
A college instructor flies a small drone inside a facility in London, Ontario. John Sing, Fanshawe College Photo
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On March 16, at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, in the presence of airport, airline and pilot representatives, Garneau announced an immediate measure which will affect the operations of model aircraft and recreational drones of more than 250 grams and up to 35 kilograms. Garneau was joined by representatives of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police 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 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 Calgary Airport Authority, which manages and operates YYC Calgary International Airport and Springbank Airport, fully endorses the Interim Order issued by Transport Canada. “Flying of recreational drones near airports poses an unnecessary risk to aviation, and we applaud the action announced by Transport Minister Marc Garneau regarding such drone activity near airports,” said Bernie Humphries, vice president, operations for the Calgary Airport Authority.

“The safety of everyone at our airports is of primary importance to The Calgary Airport Authority and today’s announcement, in advance of the permanent regulations to follow, is a significant step toward reducing risks from drone activity.”

The key new rules are that recreational drone operators must mark their drone with their contact information, and may not fly:

  • Higher than 90 meters;
  • At night;
  • Within 75 meters of buildings, vehicles or people; or
  • Within nine kilometers of the center of any airport, heliport, aerodrome or water aerodrome where aircraft take off and land.

Operators of drones for commercial, academic or research purposes are not affected by this measure. The rules that are already in place are effective and most commercial users operate their drones in a safe manner.

Any recreational operator who fails to comply with the new flying restrictions and conditions could be subject to fines of up to $3,000. Call 911 or your local law enforcement agency immediately if you witness illegal drone use.

Visit www.canada.ca/drone-safety to learn more about the new rules, and updates on the department’s progress on drones.

“The RCMP encourages recreational drone users to be responsible when operating in public places,” said chief superintendent Eric Stubbs, Royal Canadian Mounted Police. “We encourage all drone operators to think about the safety of those around them, and follow the new regulations at all times.”

Quick Facts

The new safety rules will:

  • Be in effect for a period of up to one year to provide greater safety for operators and the public until permanent regulations are put in place; and
  • Introduce a way to enforce compliance immediately.

Recreational drone users are responsible for learning how to fly their drone safely and legally and to comply with the new rules.

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“Dangerous operations are a threat to aviation safety and to the investment and livelihood of legitimate commercial operators who are now significant users of Canadian airspace. Nonetheless, we believe that the measures announced today need further refinement,” said a representative from Unmanned Systems Canada. “With over 10 years of collaboration with Transport Canada on the development of regulations for the professional use of unmanned aerial systems, we look forward to continuing that effort over the weeks ahead to develop a more thorough risk based approach with improved enforcement provisions. For example, we can improve on addressing the different risks between operating near a hospital heliport, and a major airfield to allow broader usage in areas such as Southern Ontario or the lower B.C. mainland.

“Transport Canada deserves credit for having taken this initial step to curb recreational drone use, which constitutes a hazard to aviation. With further analysis, we believe that the measures can be improved to better balance aviation safety concerns while permitting Canadians to enjoy the outdoor recreational opportunities afforded by this uniquely captivating technology.”

Members of the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC) in good standing who operate at MAAC sanctioned fields or events are not subject to these rules.

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