Drone innovation and collaboration

We are working to safely integrate drones into Canada’s transport system. We’re doing this through remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) trials and test sites, and through partnerships with key Canadian and international organizations.

Find out what we’re doing to support drone safety and promote innovation in Canada.

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Supporting innovation through research and development to advance drone safety

Research Results

In order to create evidence based regulations, we have partnered with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), to plan and execute several research and development (R&D) projects. The intent of this R&D program is to fill the existing knowledge gaps of this emerging technology, to be able to safely integrate RPAS into our Canadian context. We started in 2018 with 3 projects and now it has grown to 8 projects this fiscal year. The relevant reports for each project will be posted here as they become available:

Call for research and development projects

We launched in 2018, jointly with the NRC’s Aerospace Research Centre, the Consortium for Aerospace Research (CARIC) and Innovation in Canada, and the Consortium for Aerospace Research and Innovation in Quebec (CRIAQ), a call for project ideas to further strengthen Canada’s foothold in the drone industry.

The goal of this program is to promote Canadian development of research and technology related to several subjects such as:

  • Detect and avoid (DAA) systems,

  • Command and Control (C2) link robustness,

  • Human injury probability,

  • Human injury severity, and

  • Drone detection

Work on these subjects continues in 2020, in addition to studying drone responses to global pandemics. Through collaborative research activities, the outcome of this program will help inform Transport Canada’s regulatory framework to promote safe and economically viable drone applications in Canada.

Detect and Avoid (DAA) trials (2020)

We have partnered with LOOKNorth and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to launch a call for proposals with the objective of testing the performance of several ground-based and airborne DAA systems. Three Canadian companies were selected to participate in this trial:

Testing will be conducted in late 2020 and early 2021. The results of these trials will help us determine safe minimum performance requirements for these types of DAA systems.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) traffic management services testing

RPAS Traffic Management (RTM) is an air traffic management ecosystem of services. RTM is meant to create a system of systems. It could link communication networks and sensors with traffic management to enable the integration of Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operations. RTM could also be used for detecting intrusions around airports as well as in integrating RPAS operations into the airport environment. In short, RTM will allow us to progressively move from segregation, to managed partial segregation, to full integration.

We are moving forward with a series of trials to help innovators explore new technologies related to air traffic management. Transport Canada sent out a call for proposals from innovators to help set the requirements for, and the deployment of services needed for Canada’s RTM system. The call for proposals is closed but you can read more about the accepted applications here.

Creating test ranges for drones

We have approved 2 drone test ranges in Canada:

These test ranges support research and development in the drone industry by providing a safe environment for operators to test new technologies and validate safety procedures without putting other aircraft or bystanders at risk. Both test ranges have access to restricted airspace.

Operations at each of the test ranges follow a streamlined Special Flight Operations Certificate process, which is facilitated by the range organizations.

RPAS pilot projects for beyond visual line-of-sight testing

In February 2018, we invited industry to create concepts of operation (ConOps) for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations.

Industry members applied to be one of the BVLOS trials in 2018-19. These trials will allow operators to gain flight experience and test their systems. They will also inform potential BVLOS regulations in the future.

Three organizations completed their trials in 2018-2019:

  • Canada Post will explore the deployment of drones in Canada’s remote and rural regions.

  • Canadian UAVs will conduct a long-range pipeline survey in Western Alberta to prove the feasibility and capability of using a ground-based radar system.

  • Drone Delivery Canada will explore using drones for the safe delivery of food and medical services in Moosonee, Ontario.

Improving service delivery for commercial drone operators

In 2017, we opened a Centre of Expertise. We:

  • process Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) applications

  • work with industry on operational and technical issues

  • promote aviation through surveillance and enforcement activities.

You are likely to see a Transport Canada regional inspector delivering a presentation or answering questions at industry events, or conducting field inspections.

Collaborating at home

Transport Canada’s remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) project

Video and transcript

Transport Canada’s RPAS project is a contribution to the integration of this technology into Canadian airspace and the regulatory development for Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations.

Drones in the Canadian Arctic

Drones could soon be used to monitor Northern Canada’s safety, security and environment as part of the Arctic Unmanned Aircraft System Initiative. To prepare for this, we conducted several flight trials during the spring of 2019.

Drones, whales and highways

We are using drones to help with North Atlantic Right Whale monitoring in Gaspé and a Beluga whale survey in Mackenzie Bay.

We’ll also use drones to help make a map of the Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway and the Dempster highway from Inuvik to the Yukon border.

Drone Talks: Planning for Success summary report

Drone Talks: Planning for Success was a two-day workshop event held on May 29 and 30, 2019. It focused on tackling key RPAS issues and challenges; and planning for future success in Canada and abroad through early meaningful discussion with industry stakeholders.

The report summarizes what we heard from stakeholders on key topics such as:

  • Airspace and RPAS Traffic Management (RTM)
  • Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations
  • Airworthiness and certification
  • Pilot licensing and training

To request an electronic copy of the report, please email the RPAS Task Force directly at: TC.RPASInfo-InfoSATP.TC@tc.gc.ca.

The Canadian Drone Advisory Committee (CanaDAC)

On May 12, 2021, Transport Canada is launching a Canadian drone advisory committee (CanaDAC), which will provide a national forum for industry and other key stakeholders to inform priority policy and regulatory areas of focus for Transport Canada and advance Canada’s thinking on remotely piloted aircraft systems and increasingly automated aircraft.

The committee brings together up to 35 key thought leaders and subject matter experts from a broad range of implicated sectors, and will focus on topics that pertain to the continued integration of RPAS into the Canadian economy in the longer-term, such as anticipated technological innovation in the next 5-10 years, new ways to use RPAS, and what government and industry needs to do to prepare for these changes.

The committee will convene for two years and hold an estimated three half-day virtual meetings per year.

Collaborating abroad

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Canada is a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization. As a participant, we can learn from other countries’ experience regulating drones. Standards and recommended practices developed at ICAO help improve the safety of aircraft in Canada.

ICAO has established the RPAS Panel to develop guidelines for drone operations flying under instrument-flight-rules (IFR) from one airport to another. Future guidelines will cover all aspects of drone aviation to ensure that drones can operate safely in our aviation system and alongside other airspace users. Canada is participating in the RPAS panel to ensure that these guidelines meet the needs of Canadians and to advance aviation safety globally.

Collaborating with international partners

Canada’s drone industry is part of a broader aviation network, which requires collaboration to support innovation, and ensure the safety of our aviation system. Transport Canada works with other state civil aviation agencies from around the world to share information, align Canadian drone policy, and share best practices.

For example, Transport Canada has a strong relationship with the United States Federal Aviation Administration, and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to share results of RPAS research, such as the effects of icing conditions on drones, given the Canadian climate. Transport Canada is also a participant in the FAA’s International Roundtable on RPAS research which brings together multiple civil aviation authorities and academic institutions from around the world to share information.

Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS)

Canada is a member of the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems and the organization’s co-chair for 2020-2021. JARUS members are representatives from national aviation authorities of over 50 countries and international organizations.

As a participant in JARUS sessions, we can stay up to date with global trends in drone regulation and technological development and adapt recommendations into Canada’s drone policy and regulations.

Standards development organizations

Transport Canada has also been participating with a range of standards development organizations to support emerging international requirements that will support the safe integration of aircraft into aviation systems.

The Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) has been developing standards to support technical solutions required by future ICAO standards and recommended practices.

ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, has been developing standards to support the type certification of large RPAS and is developing standards for drone traffic management services.