It is plainly obvious that Canadian drone laws are intended to increase airspace safety for both crewed aircraft and drones while providing clear rules and regulations for law enforcement. The new laws are much clearer but might still be confusing for amateur drone pilots.
In 2019 Transport Canada introduced new drone regulations, and fines surrounding recreational drone use in Canada. These laws create new drone pilot categories that have specific certification and registration requirements. The new Canadian drone laws relaxed some of the rules regarding where drones can be flown. However, Airports, Heliports, National Parks are still no-fly zones, as are other designated areas. There were also new fines introduced ranging up to $25,000.
Increasingly artists and amateur photographers are taking to aerial photography to capture unique perspectives. But are they following the law?
What are Drones?
Drones are unmanned remotely piloted aircraft. In Canada, there are a number of different terms used to refer to drones, but the Canadian Aviation Regulations prefers the term RPAS – Remotely Piloted Aircraft System.
Drones are used by the military, commercial entities, governments and private individuals for a variety of activities ranging from farming, geographic mapping, search and rescue operations, and by law enforcement and border agents for surveillance and evidence collection.
Do I need a Licence to fly a drone?
There are no licences that are issued for drone operators, rather pilot certificates are required for any person operating a drone in Canada over 250 grams.
Operators of Micro Drones (under 250 grams) do not require a licence or an operator certificate and the drone does not need to be registered.
A pilot of a drone that weighs over 250 grams requires a valid drone pilot certificate (basic or advanced) and the drone must be properly registered and marked.
Drones in Canada over 25 kgs require a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC).
Canadian Drone Laws & Regulations
The following is a summary of Canadian drone laws and regulations introduced by Transport Canada in 2019.
- Pilots must always be able to see their drones
- Maximum flight altitude of 122 meters (400 feet)
- Respect the privacy of others
- Avoid other aircraft, emergency operations, outdoor events,
- All drones over 250 grams must be registered with Transport Canada and marked with registration numbers
- All pilots operating a drone over 250 grams must have a drone pilot certificate
- Fly a minimum distance of 30 meters from bystanders for basic operations
- Avoid controlled airspace for basic operations
If drone operators avoid designated areas, maintain a safe distance from people and buildings, comply with rules surrounding certificates and registrations, drones can be flown almost anywhere.
Interactive Map created by Transport Canada that shows where drones can be flown in Canada.
Penalties & Consequences
The new regulations also introduce severe penalties and fines for violations of the Aeronautics Act and Canadian Aviation Regulations. Private individual drone operators face the following fines:
- up to $1,000 fine for each violation of flying without a drone pilot certificate, flying unregistered drones, or unmarked drones
- up to a $1,000 fine for flying in controlled or restricted airspace
- up to a $3,000 fine for placing aircraft or people at risk
Corporate entities that operate drones outside the regulations could face the following fines:
- up to $5,000 fine for each violation of flying without a drone pilot certificate, flying unregistered drones, unmarked drones, or flying in controlled or restricted airspace
- up to a $15,000 fine for placing aircraft or people at risk
Further, any person caught operating a drone within National Park boundaries without an approved permit faces a fine of up to $25,000.
Other Relevant Laws Regarding Drones
It is difficult to imagine every possible circumstance or scenario that a law or regulation may be broken with the operation of a drone. The activity that surrounds the use of a drone may lead to both criminal and civil liability if there is harm or damages caused. There have been instances of drones being deliberately flown over airports, drones crashing into moving vehicles, being used for corporate espionage or simply for spying on others.
In addition to the rules and regulations under the Aeronautics Act and Canadian Aviation Regulations, there are sections of the Canadian Criminal Code that may be engaged by drone pilots that have serious consequences upon conviction.
- Section 77 – Endangering the Safety of an Aircraft or Airport
- Section 220 – Causing Death by Criminal Negligence
- Section 221 – Causing Bodily Harm by Criminal Negligence
- Section 162 – Voyeurism
- Section 264 – Criminal Harassment
- Section 348 – Break & Enter
- Section 249 – Dangerous Operation of an Aircraft
- Section 430 – Mischief
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Canadian Drone Laws
Do you need a licence to fly drones in Ontario?
There are no “pilot’s licences” for drones in Ontario or Canada. But for drones over 250 grams to 25 kg a “pilot’s certificate” is required. The federal government creates the rules and regulations over Canadian airspace and both federal and provincial governments enforce these laws.
Is insurance required to fly a drone?
No insurance is required to fly or own recreational drones under 25 kgs. Regardless, those using drones for commercial use should consider liability insurance.
Can I fly a drone in Toronto?
Yes, but in very few spaces. A drone operator in Toronto needs to be aware of the airspace around several airports and helipads. See this interactive map to learn where you can fly a drone.
How high can I fly a drone?
In Canada, drone laws limit flying to 122 meters (400 feet) or lower. This is more restricted in areas around aerodromes.
Who enforces Drone laws in Toronto?
Any law enforcement agency or police service with jurisdiction can enforce Canadian drone laws. The Toronto Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police as well as the RCMP can all enforce drone laws in Toronto.
Are drone laws enforced in Canada?
Yes, they are. Recently in Calgary, the police charged a man with repeatedly flying his drone over airports. Often, police will lay charges if there are complaints, serious airspace or aircraft safety incidents, or the drone operator has been warned several times for violations. Fly safely, avoid airports and be aware of other people’s privacy interests.
What are the laws on flying drones over private property?
Some believe that trespass laws cover the airspace over private property. They don’t unless that intrusion is permanent or interferes with their reasonable enjoyment of their property. A drone overflight might be annoying to some but does not rise to the level of trespassing.
Toronto Based Lawyer
If you are facing regulatory charges for flying your drone in Toronto, call William Jaksa. He help you understand the charges, your options, and the possible outcomes.
William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer with over a decade of experience, and expertise in criminal law. Contact William Jaksa today for a consultation.