New Rules for Canadian Recreational Drone Pilots: What You Need to Know Before You Fly

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Updated March 2017: We’ve updated this post to reflect the new Transport Canada rules that Canadian recreational drone (UAV) pilots should be aware of before they fly.

Canadian UAV Laws -Photo of Drone Flying

The Phantom series made by DJI are among the most popular drones for recreational use

With the use of multi-rotor Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), a.k.a. drones increasing in Canada, it’s important that you know which Canadian UAV laws apply to you before taking your drone on its first flight.

We’ve found a US based website called Airmap that might be a useful resource for mapping out where you can fly your drone. Because it’s US based, it uses FAA (American) flight restrictions, but it has Canadian cities and gives you a rough idea of where you probably shouldn’t be flying your drone.

Airmap Interactive Map

Below are the basics of what you need to know before you decide to make your purchase. We suggest visiting Transport Canada’s web page on Drone Safety for more information.

More and more people are flying drones and UAVs. Transport Canada regulates their use to keep the public and other airspace users safe. Before you take to the skies, make sure you understand the rules and follow them. Not doing so could put lives at risk and cost you up to $25,000 in fines and/or jail time”. – Transport Canada Website

New rules – March 2017 – for Canadian (Recreational) UAV “Drone” Operators.

From Transport Canada:

“If you fly your drone for fun and it weighs more than 250 g and up to 35 kg, you do not need special permission from Transport Canada to fly.”

“Follow the basic safety rules below. Not doing so may put lives, aircraft and property at risk. If you fly where you are not allowed or choose not to follow any of the rules below, you could face fines of up to $3,000.”

Do not fly your drone:

  • higher than 90 m above the ground
  • closer than 75 m from buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals, people/crowds, etc.
  • closer than nine km from the centre of an aerodrome (any airport, heliport, seaplane base or anywhere that aircraft take-off and land)
  • within a controlled or restricted airspace
  • within nine km of a forest fire
  • where it 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.

“The list above is an overview of the new rules for recreational drone users. Consult the Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft for the full list of provisions. Members of the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada (MAAC) who operate at MAAC sanctioned fields or events are not subject to these rules.”

Tips for recreational drone users:

  • Fly your drone during daylight and in good weather.
  • Keep your drone where you can see it with your own eyes – not through an on-board camera, monitor or smartphone.
  • Make sure your drone is safe for flight before take-off. Ask yourself, for example: Are the batteries fully charged? Is it too cold to fly?
  • Respect the privacy of others. Avoid flying over private property or taking photos or videos without permission.

Confused? The YouTube Channel Drone Valley has put together a great video that walks us through the new regulations.

Canadian UAV Laws - When do you need permission to fly graphic

How to tell if you need permission to fly a drone.
Click to enlarge

When you need a licence:

Regardless of what you plan to use it for, if your drone weighs over 35 kg (77 lbs), you must apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) issued by Transport Canada.






You also need a licence if you plan to use your drone to provide a paid (either directly or indirectly) or unpaid commercial service. This is known as “Hire & Reward”*.

*The Aeronautics Act defines hire and reward as:

  • (a) “any payment, consideration, gratuity or benefit, directly or indirectly charged, demanded, received or collected by any person for the use of an aircraft”.
  • (b) Equipping model aircraft with a payload does not, in itself, make the model a UAV, however, once the model aircraft is launched for any reason other than recreational purposes, it is an unmanned air vehicle.

Non-recreational users can however apply for an SFOC exemption if they meet all of the requirements laid out by Transport Canada.

Follow the link below for more information on how to qualify and apply for an exemption. 

Qualifying for an SFOC exemption

Rules for Non-Recreational Drone Pilots

Non-recreational drone: If you fly your drone (or UAV) for work or research, or if it weighs more than 35 kg, you must get a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC). The SFOC tells you how and where you are allowed to use your UAV.

For more information on the SFOC, read Getting permission to fly your drone.

When flying a UAV (non-recreational drone) in Canada, you must:

  • follow the rules in the Canadian Aviation Regulations:
  • respect the Criminal Code, your provincial Trespass Act, as well as all applicable municipal, provincial, and territorial laws that apply

When flying a model aircraft (recreational drone) in Canada you must:

  • follow the rules of the Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft

Transport Canada inspectors investigate reports of unsafe and illegal drone use. We may involve local police if other laws (e.g., the Criminal Code and privacy laws) have been broken.

You could face serious consequences – including up to $25,000 in fines and/or jail time – if you:

  • put aircraft at risk
  • fly where you are not allowed
  • endanger anyone’s safety

For example:

  • If you fly where your drone recreationally where you are not allowed or choose not to follow any of the rules outlined in the Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft you could face fines of up to $3,000.
  • If you fly a UAV without an SFOC and should have one, we may fine up to $5,000 for a person and $25,000 for a corporation.
  • If you do not follow the requirements of your SFOC, we may fine up to $3,000 for a person and $15,000 for a corporation.

Canadian UAV Laws - Drones Flying

Flight School – DJI New Pilot Experience at Vistek Toronto

It sounds daunting, but don’t let this scare you away from purchasing a drone, as flying one is an extremely fun and rewarding experience.

If you’re still unsure, there are many “flight schools” that specialize in pilot training for drone operators and Vistek has held several DJI New Pilot Experience events that were huge successes thanks to the massive interest in this hobby.

Some Canadian UAV Flight Schools:

Vistek has a large selection of drones available online or you can visit one of our five stores located across Canada to speak to one of our UAV specialists.