Like conventional aircraft pilots, Canadian drone operators are obliged to report occurrences involving their drones to the Transportation Safety Board (the “TSB”). The TSB is Canada’s independent agency charged with investigating aviation occurrences in order to make causal findings and develop recommendations to avoid or reduce future safety issues.
Shortly after the new Part IX of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (the “CARs”) came into force in June 2019, the TSB issued a memorandum setting out the reporting requirements for occurrences involving drones, entitled “Occurrence Reporting guidelines for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems”, (the “Guidelines”).
This blog post will discuss the mandate of the TSB and provide a summary of the Guidelines for operators who have an accident with their drone.
Mandate of the TSB
The TSB is an independent agency, enabled by the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act, SC 1989, c 3 (“the CTAISB”). The Transportation Safety Board Regulations (the “TSB Regulations”) provide the framework for the TSB’s operations and function.
The TSB’s overarching mandate is to assist in the advancement of safety in air, marine, pipeline and rail transportation in Canada. It is also statutorily enabled to:
- conduct independent investigations, including public enquiries when necessary, into selected transportation occurrences, in order to make findings regarding their causes and contributing factors;
- identify safety deficiencies, as evidenced by transportation occurrences;
- make recommendations designed to eliminate or reduce such safety deficiencies; and
- report publicly on investigations and findings in relation thereto.
In its written reports to the public following accident investigations, the TSB provides analysis and information on the causes and contributing factors of a transportation occurrence. The TSB does not assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability and its reports and decisions are not binding on any parties in legal or disciplinary proceedings.
Guidelines on Drone Occurrence Reporting issued by TSB
The Guidelines were issued by the TSB on June 13, 2019 and relate to the reporting of occurrences (as defined by the CTAISB, which includes both “accidents” and “incidents”). While there are specific circumstances where a report to the TSB will be necessary, all categories of drone operations must adhere to the Guidelines. Below is a summary of the applicability of the Guidelines for operators to follow if they experience an accident:
|Who must report?|
|What should be reported?|
* An “accident” includes a circumstance in which an individual dies or suffers severe injury relating to the aircraft, or the aircraft sustains structural failure or damage that adversely impacts the aircraft’s structural strength.
More regulatory requirements on the horizon?
The Guidelines make reference to the fact that the TSB Regulations do not “as of yet” include specific provisions relating to drone operations. Operators could expect specific regulations in the future that will impose specific regulatory requirements on drone operators that may or may not be different that those set out in the Guidelines. Drone operators should continue to stay current on the various laws and regulations applicable to their operations.
A special thanks to Liz McLellan (articling student) for assisting with the preparation of this post.
 TSB Regulations, SOR/2014-37.
 CTAISB, subsection 7(1).