Fly a drone? Whether for scouting or videography, new rules apply

Transport Canada has announced new rules for “remotely piloted aircraft systems,” commonly known as drones or UAVs. Whether it’s for work or pleasure, all people flying drones that weigh between 250 grams to 25 kilograms will have to adhere to the rules that come into effect June 1, 2019.

The new rules have two main categories – basic or advanced – depending on the distance from bystanders and controlled airspace. According to Transport Canada, farmers would fit into the advanced category as they would likely be flying the drone over farm equipment with people in it; however, many drone school operators say farmers “should be ok” with the basic license.

Drone pilots who need to fly a drone outside the rules for basic or advanced operations will need to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) before they fly.

For both categories, every drone pilot will be required to:

  • register and mark the drone with its registration number;
  • pass an online exam and get a pilot certificate for basic or advanced operations;
  • be a minimum age of 14 for basic and 16 for advanced operations, unless supervised by a person having proper certificates;
  • stay below an altitude of 122 m (400 feet) above ground level; and
  • stay away from air traffic.

Drone pilots are encouraged to take time to review the new rules, and take a course provided by a drone flight school before attempting to take the online exam or flight review.

Although these new rules don’t come into effect until the beginning of June, Transport Canada is also reminding people that the current rules still apply.

Come June, there are several fees to register a drone and to take the advanced course:

  • $5 for drone registration
  • $10 small drone advanced exam which must be completed before you can move onto the flight review
  • From there, you will need to pass the flight review portion from a Transport Canada approved drone school. The cost is set by the school and after calling around, in Canada at minimum it’ll cost roughly $160
  • If you pass the flight review, you’ll be charged $25 advanced operation certificate
  • Optional training can cost anywhere from $100 for an online course to $599 for an in-person course

If you break the rules, or are found not to have the necessary training and registration, you could be charged and face fines of up to $3,000. A more serious fine of up to$25,000 and the possibility of jail time can be given to anyone who violates the criminal code as well as any provincial, territorial, and municipal laws governing areas such as privacy and trespassing.

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