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So you’re a tech savvy safety advisor, environmental inspector or even a pipeline inspector and you went and jumped on the latest craze taking North America by storm “Drones” or as the regulating body in Canada likes to refer to them as Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAV’s).

While spending time at the local soccer field honing your skills as a drone pilot a lightbulb comes on and you think to yourself I can make some money with this thing. Sweet I’ll have it out on my next project and I’ll be a rock star with the best daily reports and photos the construction manager has ever seen. NOT so fast there Mr. Eager B. Beaver.

There are laws in Canada that regulate what we can and can’t do with our high-tech tool. Yes, I call it a tool because that’s what it is a tool to manage risk, in this case it minimizes exposure to workplace hazards like steep slopes, hazardous environments, working on or near water, and driving to list a few. Drones also have the ability to provide real time data to work progress and issues arising out on a spread kilometer’s ahead of you. To the extent that if you are within cellular phone coverage you can save real time photos or video footage to your mobile device and send it back to the construction office for immediate response saving time and money on tight schedule driven projects.

So, I’ve been flying my drone’s right out of the box for the last two years, I’ve had several models and learned some tough costly lessons along the way. I am currently flying a Phantom 3 Professional. Loaded to the max right out of the box it’s enough to make a gear guy cry. It includes a 4K Video / 12 Megapixel Photo Camera, 3-Axis Stabilization Gimbal, Easy to Fly, Intelligent Flight System, Live HD View, Dedicated Remote Controller, Powerful Mobile App w/ Auto Video Editor, Vision Positioning for Indoor Flight. Never mind all the aftermarket things you can buy thru Amazon or other aftermarket sites. So I’m not a professional Drone pilot, I’ve learned to fly mine just like everyone else out there. As I got more into flying mine and seeing how it could be used not just for fun but could also have huge impacts in my work environment as well, I started asking questions and depending on whom I asked I got a million and one different answers. I was finally pointed in the right direction late last year and the great team at Transport Canada has help our immensely. Below is an overview of some of the questions I get asked and by no means does it capture everything, but it will get you pointed in the right direction.

I highly recommend taking the Canadian Unmanned UAV Training Course. This course is a 1.5 day condensed UAS ground school course to both civil and commercial operators. It covers the following topics that are all deemed essential by Transport Canada:
• Aerodynamics
• Air law and regulations
• Communications
• Weather and basic UAS 101
• Aviation charts and flight supplements

Students also receive instruction for an Industry Canada Restricted Radio Operators License (Air). Upon the successful completion of the radio exam, students will then receive a radio license, which allows them to operate and monitor aviation frequencies. CCUVS and Canadian Unmanned have successfully trained over 800 students and offer this course both in house and on location as required. It is recognized by Transport Canada and seen as most beneficial when indicated on a SFOC application.
What makes a UAV a model aircraft in the eyes of Transport Canada (TC)?

“Model aircraft” means an aircraft, the total weight of which does not exceed 35 kg (77.2 pounds) that is mechanically driven or launched into flight for recreational purposes. By definition a UAV is no longer a model aircraft when:
– Owned by a company not an individual.
– Used for profit.

My model plane/copter has a camera on it and I’ve started making money selling the photos/videos, is this allowed?
As described by TC as soon as you make money or become contracted to use you model aircraft it no-longer qualifies as a model aircraft. Your model aircraft is now a UAV and requires a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) to fly.

I’m using my UAV for profit or the success of my business depends on photos/video I take, what do I need to know?
You need a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) every time your UAV is in Canadian Airspace, Yes even testing and development outdoors requires an SFOC. Don’t panic obtaining an SFOC is common place in Canada, and as of May 17th 2012 it’s free. This is because the law strictly prohibits UAVs without these certificates.
602.41 No person shall operate an unmanned air vehicle in flight except in accordance with a special flight operations certificate or an air operator certificate.

How do I get an SFOC?
A: The procedure for obtaining an SFOC is listed here. The most important in preparing your SFOC application is that you prove to Transport Canada that you will not be putting the public in danger nor will you be disrupting air traffic.
– Please see the TC staff guideline when creating your submission,

What does it cost to applying for an SFOC?
For UAVs there is NO COST involved in applying for and obtaining an SFOC.
Do I need to get a different SFOC for every day that I fly?
No! As it was explained by Transport Canada you can apply for to get an SFOC that indicates a range of dates and times.

How big of an area can I apply for in my SFOC?
As mentioned above the primary purpose of an SFOC is to ensure the safety of the public and air traffic. Your SFOC application will be individually reviewed by Transport Canada staff specific to the region. As long as you follow outline all the prerequisites outlined here:

Can you give us some of the examples SFOC applications provided by TC?
The example was of an established RC pilot contracted to take an aerial photo of a pipeline right of way every Tuesday during the growing season. His application would look something like:
– Between May 18th to September 28th 2012, Every Tuesday between 9am and 9pm.
– Alternative date for flight will be the Tuesday between 4pm and 7pm.
– Alternative date for flight will be the next Wednesday between 8am and 6pm.
– A note from the local RM indicating they have no objection to the flights.
– A description of his craft.
– A note from the farmer indicating that there will be no people or equipment on his field during any of the operational times (Security).
– An aerial/satellite photo for the area of operations.
– On this photo/map he will indicate takeoff and landing zones. Remember to note any obstacles between the takeoff and landing zones.
– On this photo/map he will indicate the boundaries of where he will be operating.
– He will then indicate the projected flight path will photos will be taken.

This isn’t all of the points outlined . Note that all these points need to be completed and submitted.
Each SFOC is individually reviewed. It was mentioned that TC will work with you, within reason, if your application is missing certain points. They may also request a demonstration of you and/or your crafts abilities.
I plan to take photos & video of my niece’s sports games for the league to use for future promotional material, what do I need to know?
Transport Canada advised that a 100 foot horizontal buffer between a crowd and itself.
I’m using my craft for recreational use. What kind of restrictions are in place for non-commercial, recreational crafts?
The law states:
602.45 No person shall fly a model aircraft or a kite or launch a model rocket or a rocket of a type used in a fireworks display into cloud or in a manner that is or is likely to be hazardous to aviation safety.
What if I break the rules?

Well, for starters, we don’t want to hear about it here! Section 602.41 as a designated provision, has an individual penalty in the amount of $5,000.00 and a corporation penalty of $25,000.00.

Okay, I’m obeying all the rules. Are there any other guidelines for safe and responsible “Model Aircraft” operations?

Yes. In the USA the RCAPA (the RC aerial photography association) has some excellent guidelines that will help out immensely as a starting point.
Reference material for this article comes from the following:
Transport Canada
Canadian UAS/UAV* Aerial Photography & Video service providers and other resources:
Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems

Well, there you have it, thanks to our resident in house Drone Master, Mark Lindenbach. If you would like to know more about the use of Drones and how Xi Safety can assist you with their use on any of your projects, give us a call at 403 730 0806 or

Pollyne (34 Posts)