Despite the new Part IX of the Canadian Aviation Regulations and drone safety campaigns by Transport Canada, unauthorized flights over crowds and interference with manned aircraft operations by rogue drone operators persist in Canada. According to Transport Canada, the number of reported incidents in Canada more than tripled from 2014 to 2017. There have been at least two incidents where it is believed that a drone struck an aircraft and the number of reported drone incidents has risen since January 1, 2019. This problem is not uniquely Canadian – enforcing regulations continues to be a challenge for transportation departments and law enforcement around the world (for more information on reported incidents worldwide, click here).
Few judicial decisions exist in Canada relating to the operation of drones or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). In R v. Shah, the Provincial Court of Alberta released its decision on the first reported case on drones in Canada. Although the key charging section in this case has since been revised, and this case was decided before the most current regulations came into force, the decision in Shah offers valuable insight into the unique risk factors associated with drone operations. The discussion in Shah has significant implications relating to airspace safety as drones continue to integrate into Canada’s airspace.
To see our full case comment, click here.
The final version of Canada’s new regulations for visual-line-of-sight operations for drones weighing between 250g and 25kg, were introduced by Transport Canada in January 2019. These regulations constitute significant revisions to the proposed version of the regulations that were prepared and released in July 2017 (a summary of the proposed version can be found here). The new Part IX to the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) mostly come into force on June 1, 2019.
It was high time to update Canada’s drone regulations. Transport Canada acknowledged this need in the Regulatory Impact Statement accompanying the regulations, noting that “…the existing Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) do not provide a regulatory framework that promotes the economic potential of RPAS nor does it contain modern, risk- and performance-based regulations that can uphold aviation safety.”
Key features of the new regulations
Transport Canada’s stated objectives for the new regulations are to i) create regulatory predictability for business, and ii) reduce the risk to aviation safety caused by drones.
After much anticipation, Transport Canada announced the official drone regulations at a press conference this morning in Montreal, Quebec. Embracing the nomenclature change to refer to drones as “remotely piloted aircraft systems”, the official regulations reflect many changes to the laws in Canada for drones weighing between 250g and 25kg. Most of these new laws, including those described in our earlier blog post, will come into force and effect starting June 1, 2019.
The full text of the official regulations has been published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, and can be found here. A fulsome summary and highlights of the official regulations will follow shortly.
Transport Canada recently provided industry leaders with a preview of the final version of the official regulations for small drones (250g-25kg) operated within visual line-of-sight. Since the proposed text of the regulations was released in July 2017, Canadians have been eagerly awaiting the final version. At the 2018 Unmanned Systems Canada Conference, Transport Canada representatives revealed the key changes that will be reflected in the official text of the regulations (upon their release at some point in 2018).
Over the last year, Transport Canada consulted with stakeholders in the RPAS industry and the Canadian public regarding the proposed text of the regulations.
Toufic Chamas was convicted under s. 77(e) of the Criminal Code of Canada for endangering aviation safety near an airport through the operation of a drone and was fined $3,000. According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and as reported by the CBC, this is the first drone-related conviction of its kind under the Criminal Code of Canada.
Even though spring will soon be here, packing your drone up with your camping gear or picnic supplies for a trip through one of Canada’s national parks is still a no-go.
Parks Canada prohibits the recreational flight of drones in Canada’s national parks. Drone flight within the parks is cited as a potential source of danger for wildlife and visitors, according to the Parks Canada website.
Non-recreational use is permitted in some circumstances; it requires the advanced permission of the Parks Canada Field Unit Superintendent, as well as adherence to the requirements for drone flight set out in the Canadian Aviation Regulations.