Both Transport Canada (TC) guidelines (current) and incoming regulations (December 2016) alike require that all operators of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (SUAV’s) obtain permission from local authorities prior to conducting flights.
TC distinguishes UAV’s from the model aircraft used by hobbyists by defining the activity the aircraft is used for.
Recreationally: Hobbyists, aviation enthusiasts, recreationists can obtain and fly Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that are capable of mounting cameras and lights. As long as they stay away from people, remain below 400’ above the ground, and the flying weight of the vehicle weighs no more than 35 KG, and that they do not invoice for aerial work, then no license, certification, permissions or other items are required, insofar as TC is concerned.
Commercially: Any flight done for a gain is a commercial flight, regardless the type of aircraft used.
Commercial operators (including all pilots, licensed or otherwise) of SUAV’s are required under existing regulations and guidelines to obtain one of two things from TC; a Minister’s Exemption, which precludes operators from being anywhere near a municipality or built-up area of any kind, or; a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC). The SFOC imposes rigid requirements on the entire operation and effectively imposes professional piloting standards. While it is currently possible for non-pilots to obtain SFOC’s for commercial flight operations the benchmarks they must meet are no different than those for Commercial pilots (In fact A new license class is in the works that specifically addresses UAV flying). One of the requirements for any operator to fly in your municipality that affects all SFOC’s issued is; they must have the written permission of the local authority.
So as the local authority what should you be looking for?
To begin with, they must have an SFOC, and for your own peace of mind that requires that the operator have;
- Public Liability insurance
- Flight Operations Manual
- Emergency Procedures
- Uses flight plans that;
- Establishes minimum and maximum altitudes for flights.
- Defines standards for flight adjacent to people, or built-up areas.
- Defines minimum communication capabilities
- Defines minimum crew requirements
- Places limitations on flying with First-Person-View (FPV) flying
- Restricts night operations
- Limits the use of laser devices
- Limits automated flight
- Restricts most operators to Visual Line of Sight (VLOS)
The first question you should ask every applicant looking for a business license, or even mere permission to fly for a day, is; “Do you have an SFOC issued by Transport Canada?”
But what about the specific needs and concerns of your own community?
People everywhere have concerns about the potential of this new technology, and recently UAV’s have been spotlighted in news coverage. Privacy and safety are the main issues people tend to mention.
Requiring UAV permission applicants to have an SFOC will address both privacy and safety. No certified pilot or UAV Operator will jeopardise their license or SFOC by peeking at something they should not. Likewise companies that are operating UAV’s for commercial purposes will always be careful to remain well within the boundaries defined by the Operating Certificate they have been issued.
But clarifying important items in your own municipal guidelines could be useful.
- No night flying.
- Flights adjacent to residential areas may only be conducted between the hours of 07:00h and 21:00h.
- Take-off and landing from roadways or laneways is prohibited unless a permit is also obtained for a street closure. With such a permit in place a clearly defined landing zone must still be erected by the operator prior to flights commencing.
- No over-flight of assemblies of people is permitted.
- No sling loads are permitted.
- Only one aircraft may be flown by any one operator at any given time.
- Local aviation operations should be notified whenever UAV flights are to be performed.
- Signage adjacent to the ground stations identifying the operation, and cautioning people to maintain a safe distance from the landing zone must also be provided.