Drone innovation and collaboration in Canada

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 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, and
  • Drone detection

Work on these subjects continues in 2021. 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 (2022)

We have partnered with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to launch a targeted call for participation with the specific objective of testing the performance of several non-cooperative airborne DAA systems. This call was issued directly to DAA sensor manufacturers. Three companies were selected to participate in this trial:

Following the integration of the above sensors onto a Bell 205 helicopter, testing will be conducted by the NRC during spring and summer 2022. The results of these trials will help us validate safe minimum performance requirements for these types of DAA systems and asses the overall readiness of the technology.

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. Two Canadian companies were selected to participate in this trial:

Testing was conducted in late 2020 and early 2021. We are in the process of developing a report to share the results of these trials, which 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.

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.

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.

Learn more about CanaDAC.

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.

Public opinion research studies on drones

In 2021, Transport Canada commissioned a public opinion research study on drones in Canada. The study explores the public’s attitudes towards drones and their familiarity with Transport Canada’s drone rules. You can access the full 2021 report on Library and Archives Canada’s website.

The study follows up on many subjects explored in the 2019 public opinion research study commissioned by Transport Canada.

Policy Lab on the social acceptance of drones

In 2021, Transport Canada participated in a policy lab led by McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy. For the policy lab, Transport Canada challenged a group of students to explore barriers to the social acceptance of drones in Canada.

The students developed recommendations on key topics such as:

  • Privacy
  • Safety & Security
  • Noise pollution

You can find the students’ full report on the Max Bell School of Public Policy's website.