New drone flying regulations announced

Greater popularity of drone use has prompted changes to previous rules for flying them

Transport Canada recently released new rules governing the use of drones, which are expected to take effect June 1.

These new regulations apply to Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or “drones” that weigh 25 grams up to 25 kilograms and are flown within the pilot’s visual-line-of-sight.

Why it matters: Drones are playing a significant role in the growth of precision agriculture and tighter regulations could hinder that growth.

The last regulation change was in 1996, but there have been small changes in the regulations since.

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Until recently, drone pilots worked under low-clear regulations and the requirements for a special flight operations certificate (SFOC) weren’t consistent.

“Depending on who you talked to at Transport Canada your SFOC came out a little bit different and really depended on how that office felt and how they looked at the law,” said Felix Weber at the 2019 Precision Agriculture Conference and Ag Technology Showcase.

Within Canada there are two main categories of drone operation: basic and advanced.

The weight of the drone, distance from bystanders and airspace rules define the category and these rules treat people who fly drones for leisure and for business the same.

Drones flying in uncontrolled airspace within 30 metres or less horizontally from bystanders are flying under basic operations.

Basic operators need to have their drone registered before it is flown for the first time. The craft must be marked with a registration number and the pilot must pass a basic exam and be able to show a pilot certificate.

Drones flying in controlled airspace, are flown over bystanders or within 30 metres horizontally of bystanders are classified as advanced operations and have more defined regulations to follow. These operations must follow all regulations the same as the basic operations but also pass a flight review, pass the small advanced exam and fly within operational limits of the drone.

Drones outside prescribed weight limits do not fall into either of the above categories.

For micro drones, ones that weigh less than 250 grams, they must be flown away from aircraft and airports, never put anyone or anything in danger and can only be flown when the conditions are right to be able to completely see the drone at all times.

To fly a drone that weighs more than 35 kilograms, special permission is required from Transport Canada beforehand.

More information on the new regulations for RPAS can be found at ‘Drone Safety’ on the Transport Canada website.

About the author

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Jennifer lives on a farm in Cayuga, Ontario and has a lot of experience in the many aspects of agriculture.

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