Transport Canada Announces Exemptions for UAVs

Transport Canada has announced a pair of exemptions that should make it easier for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be used for commercial purposes.

There’s been growing excitement about using UAVs in agriculture, but until now, a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada has been required for non-recreational flights. To accommodate commercial opportunities, Ottawa is now looking to cut back on the red tape involved in flying small machines.

At the Unmanned Systems Canada conference in Montreal yesterday, a Transport Canada official announced certain operations with UAVs that weigh less than 25 kilograms will not require an SFOC, and UAVs under 2 kilograms will be completely exempt from the SFOC requirement.

The changes will come into effect later this month. Details on what type of operations will be allowed without an SFOC were not announced, but Transport Canada says it will post information on its website to let operators know whether exemptions apply to them.

“This approach will dramatically improve the ability for Canadian businesses to safely make use of this extremely capable technology while substantially reducing the time it takes to get authorization for more complex operations,” said Stewart Baillie, chair of Unmanned Systems Canada. “Coupled with the safety awareness campaign announced two weeks ago, I believe that Canada now has one of the most effective and progressive UAV regulatory frameworks in the world.”

Transport Canada is also working on simplifying the application process and reducing the time it takes to issue SFOCs for larger UAVs.

Individuals can face fines of up to $5,000, and companies up to $25,000, for flying a UAV without an SFOC when it should have one. Fines of up to $3,000 for individuals and $15,000 for businesses can be issued if an operator doesn’t follow the terms of their SFOC.

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