Drones: Compliance with Federal and Municipal Laws

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s), more commonly known as drones, are used for everything from recreational photography and hobby flying, to professional filming and military operations. Typically, anything that flies is regulated exclusively by the Federal government. That means that in order to legally operate anything from a hang-glider to an Airbus, a pilot must seek a federally regulated license. Recreational drones have presented a bit of a challenge though, over the last several years. In some areas, there was a vacuum of any regulation on drone operations. In others, over-lapping federal and municipal laws dragged drone operators and pilots into a jumble of different compliance requirements depending on where the drone was launched – even for recreational purposes.

This spring, Transport Canada introduced Interim Order No. 8,[1] which Minister of Transport Marc Garneau has stated will “prevent the reckless use of drones that is putting the safety of Canadians at risk.” The new regulations affect the operation of both drones and model aircraft ranging in size from 250 g to 35 kg, and are likely a placeholder for more comprehensive federal legislation yet to come.

So where does this leave drone operators in the City of Calgary and surrounding areas? With two separate sets of requirements in order to legally fly, and an area of overlap between the two:

Summary of City of Calgary Drone Requirements

Currently, Mayor Nenshi has not attempted to ground drones outright. He and City Hall have instead released two bylaws restricting where drones can be operated within city limits. Under Parks and Pathways bylaw 20M2003 Sec 24(c), drones and any other recreational aircraft cannot be operated in or over a park. Violation of the bylaw carries a penalty of $100.00. Under the Street Bylaw 20M88 Sec. 12, drones and remote controlled aircraft also cannot be operated over a street. Violation of this bylaw results in a mandatory court appearance, but no automatic fine.

Overlapping Federal and Municipal Drone Requirements

A drone cannot be operated within the area of Class C Airspace called the Control Zone, which surrounds an airport. Calgary has two Control Zones that encompass the Calgary (YYC) International Airport, and Springbank Airport. The Control Zones are connected, and operation of a drone within the Control zone carries a fine up to $3,000.00 for private operators, and $15,000.00 for corporate-owned drones. Beyond the fine, operating a drone inside the Control Zone also endangers the many private and passenger aircraft that come and go from Springbank and YYC International Airports every day.

Summary of Interim Order 8 Federal Requirements

The Interim Order specifically differentiates between drones (less than 35 kg) and UAV’s (greater than 35 kg), and completely suspends the existing Canadian Aviation Regulations section regarding model aircraft, kits, and model rockets. In its place, model aircraft of any kind cannot be operated at an altitude of greater than 300 feet AGL, within a controlled or restricted airspace, over or within a security perimeter of a police or first responder emergency operation site, over an open-air assembly of persons, at night, or in cloud. There are restrictions on how near a drone or model aircraft can be operated to vehicles, buildings, or other people who are not involved with the drone’s operation, and the drone must always give way to a manned aircraft. Perhaps most importantly, all drones and model aircraft are now to have the name, address, and telephone number of the owner clearly marked on the drone itself.

Needless to say, the legal landscape surrounding drones and other UAV’s is shifting in Canada. If you or someone you know is a part of a recreational or professional flight team, DBH Law looks forward to the opportunity to help you navigate the new terrain.

[1] http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/mediaroom/interim-order-respecting-use-model-aircraft.html