Canadian Drone Regulations: Registration and Certification


Credit: Hermes Rivera


Canada’s national authority on aviation is the Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA). Starting from the Canada.ca homepage, drone regulations can be found by clicking on Menu, scrolling to Transport and infrastructure, then clicking the Drone safety link under Most requested. The Drone safety webpage of the TCCA website includes links to helpful information such as Canada’s legal requirements for drone flight, safety regulations, and penalties for not following regulations. The page also has links to information on important services including drone registration in Canada and obtaining a pilot certificate. One of the site's best tools is the “Where to fly your drone” page, which features an interactive map of Canada to help pilots decide where to fly. This tool is applicable to both commercial and recreational drone pilots.


Credit: Transport Canada Drone Safety


Registration

For all drones between 250 grams and 25 kilograms, pilots will need to both register their drone with the TCCA and hold a valid pilot certificate regardless of whether they fly commercially or recreationally. The drones must also be marked with the registration number before takeoff. In order to log in to the registration portal, pilots will need to log in through either a Government of Canada account login or by using their online banking login information (if their institution is a Sign-In Partner). Registration can be done online through TCCA’s Drone Management Portal. According to the TCCA website, users will also need to pay a $5 registration fee.

To register your drone, you will need:

  • to be at least 16 years old

  • either a Government of Canada login or information to log in through your banking institution

  • the purchase date of the drone, if applicable

  • the make, model, serial number, weight, and type of drone you’re registering

  • a credit card (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Interac)

Successful registration (along with the valid pilot’s certificate) will permit pilots to do basic operations, which refers to flying in uncontrolled airspace, among other factors. Pilots wanting to pursue advanced operations, including — but not limited to — flying in controlled airspace or over bystanders, will need to obtain a separate Safety Declaration along with the drone registration. If you are flying a micro-drone weighing less than 250g, you will not need to register the drone nor hold a drone pilot’s license. Image Credit: Transport Canda


Pilot Certification (License)

All pilots flying drones weighing between 250g and 25kg are required to pass the online pilot certification exam. A Canada drone pilot certificate, or license, is valid for 24 months. This goes for both a Basic Operations Certificate and an Advanced Operations Certificate.


To receive a Pilot Certificate — Basic Operations, you will need to:

  • be 14 years or older

  • pay a $10 exam fee

  • take the online exam for basic operations (called the Small Basic Exam)

  • print your certificate through the Drone Management Portal and have it on you at all times when flying

The Small Basic Exam is made up of 35 multiple-choice questions and requires a 65% or higher to pass the exam.


To receive a Pilot Certificate — Advanced Operations, you will need to:

  • be 16 years or older

  • pay a $10 exam fee per attempt

  • take the online exam for advanced operations (called the Small Advanced Exam)

  • complete an in-person flight review with a reviewer from an affiliated drone flight school

  • print your certificate through the Drone Management Portal and have it on you at all times when flying

The Small Advanced exam includes 50 multiple-choice questions and requires an 80% or higher to pass the exam. Image Credit: Transport Canda


Exam questions for both Basic Operations and Advanced Operations certificates are based on the knowledge requirements for pilots, which can be found here. Pilots with a Basic Operations certificate can only conduct basic flight operations, while pilots with an Advanced Operations certificate can conduct both basic and advanced flight operations. Flying a drone without meeting the requirements above can result in a fine of $1,000 for recreational pilots and $5,000 for commercial pilots.


Both pilot certificates last for 24 months. To renew the certificate, pilots must:

  • retake the exam (either basic or advanced)

  • pass a flight review OR do one of these training activities listed on the Government of Canada aviation webpage:

  • attend at a safety seminar endorsed by the TCA

  • complete a recurrent training program from a drone flight school

  • complete of self-paced study program endorsed by the TCA

Full lists of rules and requirements for drone pilots in Canada, as well as resources for drone safety and tools to find the best places to fly, can be found on the Government of Canada Drone Safety webpage.


Sarah Sabatke is a journalist, filmmaker and licensed drone pilot based in Baltimore, Maryland. Sarah is an avid fan of compelling visual storytelling and loves the potential that drone footage can add to a story. She is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and taught drone flight to students through the MU Drone Journalism Program, while also flying commercially.

Instagram: @sarahsabatke


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