UAV (drone) safety and regulations

About the Author: Matt Brouwer owns Evenstar Studios and holds the highest Transport Canada Certification (SSFOC) 


I'm sure everyone sees the stories in the news, like the numbskull flying over the forest fires in the BC interior, or this one in Calgary who may end up with jail time.

I've heard some people comment (even seen it in the news) that there isn't much regulation in place for UAVs. This is simply not the case. 

There are extensive Transport Canada restrictions for both recreational and commercial use. See helpful TC flow chart at the bottom of the page. Read both pages!

Let's start with the most obvious. No one can fly within 9km of an airport without permission from transport canada and local air traffic control. Not recreational users, not commercial users. Even operators such as ourselves with a standing flight clearance from Transport Canada must get approval from Air Traffic Control in advance of a flight (usually 48 hours prior). 

For Victoria, that means not flying anywhere near the 2 airports YYJ (Sidney) or YWH (Harbour). I've overlaid Victoria's two Air traffic control zones on a google map to illustrate. 

As you can see, that completely rules out most of Victoria for recreational users. Downtown is out. Oak Bay is out. Most of Saanich is out. The entire peninsula is out. Large parts of Mill Bay and Shawnigan are out. There is a tiny chunk between the two control zones between Elk/Beaver and Prospect Lakes. Parts of the Westshore are outside. 

Certified, trained, insured commercial operators with proper permission can fly within all of these those zones in coordination with air traffic control, and we do on a regular basis. 

Recreational users also can't fly higher than 90m and are required to stay at least 150m from persons or structures that aren't participating in the shoot. Furthermore they can't fly over 'built up areas'. 

Enforcing these regulations is, of course, another question for another day.

the penalties can be stiff, up to $25,000 and/or jail time. as we saw in the calgary example, charges and fines are starting to occur and i'm sure someone is going to have the book thrown at them. don't let that be you!