FAQ: General SFOC, a licence for flying drones in Canada
This info is from my other company Aerialvistaproductions.com which uses professional grade remote controlled aerial video and photographic platform to provide a range of photography and video services. Aerial Vista’s work includes filming for: independent films, action sports, commercial campaigns, weddings, website videos, inspection services and real estate. Aerial Vista’s experienced pilots use the latest photo and video equipment along cutting edge camera gimbal stabilization technology to ensure smooth footage for any complex flight patterns. We use a remote control helicopter know as the Cinestar Octocopter (8 propellers) to capture breath taking scenes from inches to 130m (400ft) elevation with complete stability and maneuverability. We have complete control of the camera while it is in flight allowing for 360 degree panning and 150 degrees of tilt of the camera gimbal for completely novel and creative perspectives.
Transport Canada has given Aerial Vista Productions an Open General Special Flight Operations Certificate (Open SFOC). We can now offer our aerial video and aerial cinematography and aerial photo services throughout BC using both our drones with only two days notice. Previously an application to Transport Canada could take up to twenty business days for approval for aerial video services. This development allows for a quicker change of locations for movie productions and special events in British Columbia.
Transport Canada Guidelines: For those without a license
Do the exemptions for small UAVs apply to me?
It depends on your type of aircraft, its weight, as well as how and where you plan to use it. Our infographic will help you understand if the exemptions apply to you or if you need permission to fly.
If you qualify for an exemption, you must meet the safety conditions at all times. For more information, please read the General safety practices for model aircraft and unmanned air vehicle systems.
What training is required to fly a UAV under the exemptions?
Each exemption contains different training requirements. For example, to fly a UAV that weighs between 2.1 kg and 25 kg UAV without permission, the operator must be trained to understand:
- airspace classification and structure
- weather and notice to airmen (NOTAM) reporting services
- aeronautical charts and the Canada Flight Supplement
- relevant sections of the Canadian Aviation Regulations.
What is the purpose of a Special Flight Operations Certificate?
The Canadian Aviation Regulations require Special Flight Operations Certificates so that Transport Canada can verify that operators can use their UAV reliably and safely.
The Special Flight Operations Certificate contains conditions specific to the proposed use, such as maximum altitudes, minimum distances from people and property, operating areas, and coordination requirements with air traffic services.
How do I apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate?
You must email a detailed application to the nearest Transport Canada regional office. Your application must include your contact information and describe how, when and where you plan to use your UAV, as well as how you plan to deal with the safety risks.
You can find detailed information on what you need to include in your application athttp://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/standards/general-recavi-uav-4161.html.
If you have any questions about applying for a Special Flight Operations Certificate, please contact your regional Transport Canada office or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How long does it take to get a Special Flight Operations Certificate?
Transport Canada processes applications on a first-come-first-served basis, and aims to process them within 20 working days. This means:
- It may take longer if we must contact you for more information or have received a large number of applications.
- You should apply at least 20 working days before you intend to use your UAV.
How long is a Special Flight Operations Certificate valid?
A Special Flight Operations Certificate is valid for a limited period of time.
If you have a proven track record of operating your UAV safely, Transport Canada may:
- Approve longer-term validity periods
- Approve larger geographic areas
- Grant new applications more quickly
How does Transport Canada enforce the regulations?
Transport Canada regulates the use of all aircraft, manned and unmanned, to keep the public and our airspace safe.
If the department receives a report of an incident, one of our inspectors will verify that the operator followed the rules and used the aircraft safely. Local police may also verify if other laws were broken, including the Criminal Code and privacy laws.
- If an operator is flying for recreational purposes, it’s illegal to fly an aircraft in a way that puts aviation safety at risk. The courts would decide on the penalty.
- If an operator doesn’t meet a condition in one of the exemptions, they will no longer qualify to fly without permission and must apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate.
- If an operator is flying an aircraft without a Special Flight Operations Certificate, and should have one, Transport Canada can issue fines up to $5,000 for an individual and up to $25,000 for a corporation.
- If an operator does not follow the requirements of their Special Flight Operations Certificate, Transport Canada can issue fines of up to $3,000 for an individual and up to $15,000 for a corporation.
Does Transport Canada plan to review the current regulations for UAVs?
Yes. Transport Canada introduced new exemptions for small UAVS in November 2014. The department continues to work with stakeholders and international partners to review and update safety regulations that will address developments in this growing sector and advancements in technology. Our goal is always to maintain the safety of those on the ground and in the sky.
What laws apply to unmanned aircraft?
In aviation, you must always think safety first. In addition to respecting the Canadian Aviation Regulations, you must follow the rules in all acts and regulations—including the Criminal Code as well as all municipal, provincial, and territorial laws regarding issues such as trespassing and privacy.
If you think someone has committed a criminal offense, please contact your local police department.
If you are concerned about the safe operation of an aircraft, you can report it to Transport Canada email@example.com.
Why are there so many different terms for unmanned aircraft?
You may know them as “drones”, but the aviation community uses many different terms. The words to describe unmanned aircraft are changing almost as quickly as the technology itself.
In Canada, our laws use two terms:
- Model aircraft describes those usually used by hobbyists for recreational purposes.
- Unmanned air vehicle, or UAV, generally refers to more complex operations used for commercial purposes.
Other countries use the term “remotely piloted aircraft system”, or RPAS. The International Civil Aviation Organization uses this term as a catch-all for all unmanned aircraft.
Call your aircraft what you like—but Transport Canada expects you to operate it safely and legally!
How many Special Flight Operations Certificates has Transport Canada issued?
Transport Canada issues more Special Flight Operations Certificates each year, as UAVs grow in popularity. Between 2010 and 2013, we issued 1,527 approvals for UAV operations.
Can I fly my UAV outside of Canada?
Rules for UAVs vary from one country to another. Always check the local aviation regulations before you lift off.