To get permission for specific drone flight operations in higher-risk environments, you will need to apply for a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) for Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS).
On this page
- Who needs to apply
- What you need to fly in higher-risk environments
- Compliance checklists
- After you apply
- Guides and help
Who needs to apply
An SFOC-RPAS gives you permission to operate your drone for a specific purpose under special conditions. You need this certificate if you want to fly your drone beyond the rules for basic or advanced operations in any of these higher-risk environments or conditions:
- Fly an RPA weighing over 25 kg
- Fly beyond visual line-of-sight
- Fly above 122 metres (400 ft)
- Fly more than five RPAs at the same time from a single control station and at less than 9.3 km (5 NM) of an aerodrome or in controlled airspace
- Carrying dangerous or hazardous payloads (e.g. chemicals)
If you are a foreign pilot or operator, start at Get permission to fly your drone as a foreign pilot or operator.
Learn more about special drone operations in low-risk environments.
What you need to fly in higher-risk environments
To get your SFOC-RPAS, you will need to:
- have a drone Pilot Certificate - Advanced Operations
- gather the documentation specified in the Compliance checklist
- complete the Specific Operational Risk Assessment (SORA)
- complete an Application for a Special Flight Operations Certificate RPAS form (PDF, 1.2 MB)
- send us your SFOC-RPAS application form and documents by email to: TC.RPASCentre-CentreSATP.TC@tc.gc.ca
Compliance checklists for higher-risk environments have 3 parts:
RPAS Operation Risk Assessment
- provide a Concept of Operations (ConOps) type document which describes the purpose of the operations
- provide a Specific Operational Risk Assessment (SORA) based on AC 903-001 – RPAS ORA
- look if any of the AC 903-001 – RPAS ORA - Draft Appendix D – “Standard Scenarios” (PDF, 565 KB) would apply to the application to make the SORA process easier
- look if the AC 903-001 – RPAS ORA - Draft Appendix G – “Guidance on population density and site surveys” (PDF, 960 KB) would apply to a BVLOS application to make the SORA process easier
- provide a Safety Plan for the proposed area of operation
- provide Emergency contingency plan and Emergency response plan
More about the Concept of Operations, or ConOps
Our preferred position is to issue SFOC-RPAS for 1 year. However, if you need to do a site survey as part of the application, the recommendation is to complete a site survey on an area that represents your ConOps. Detail what your process is to determine if an area is safe, and within the confines of your SORA or CARs 901 Regulations. This requires more work than doing a single site survey.
If you only require only one area (e.g. You are a mine operator, and the purpose of the operation is to survey just that mine, and you will never move to another site), you are free to request just that single site. This will reduce the requirement to write out a site survey procedure.
RPAS equipment capability
- provide the RPA Certificate of Registration issued with manufacturer and model information and relevant manufacturer Safety Assurance Declaration for advanced environment.
- for RPA above 25 kg or for BVLOS operations, provide a RPAS manufacturer performance declaration accepted by TC to the applicable technical requirements in reference to the applicant Specific Operational Risk Assessment (SORA) - Specific Assurance and Integrity Level (SAIL)
- confirm the RPAS has not been modified from manufacturer’s safety assurance declaration
- if using a parachute system and if less than 5 metres (16.4 ft) of other people with a relevant manufacturer’s safety assurance declaration, provide the minimum safe deployment altitude information
- provide the instructions regarding the maintenance of the RPAS and how that maintenance and serviceability will be performed before flight
Applicant, pilot information
- describe how the RPAS operation is to be carried out with the maximum altitude, maximum expected speeds, maximum RPA weight, and maximum possible linear distances in the event of a flight interruption.
- provide either the site survey for the intended RPAS operation or an example thereof that meets the site survey requirements
- provide a Company Operation Manual, RPAS Operation Manual and Training Manual of RPAS crew
- provide the names and qualifications of the crew members (including pilots, visual observers, and maintenance personnel)
- provide confirmation the pilot is qualified for advanced operations, meet recency requirements, and also has the required qualification for the SAIL Level
- provide description of separation and collision avoidance capability procedures
- provide a proof of liability insurance coverage
Request a Compliance checklist
Request the Compliance checklist that best describes your proposed operation:
- Fly an RPA weighing over 25 kg – Request a copy of Fly an RPA weighing over 25 kg
- Fly beyond visual line-of-sight – Request a copy of Fly beyond visual line-of-sight
- Fly above 122 metres (400 ft) – Request a copy of Fly above 122 metres (400 ft)
- Fly more than five RPAs at the same time from a single control station less than 9.3 km (5 NM) of an aerodrome – Request a copy of Fly more than five RPAs at the same time from a single control station less than 9.3 km (5 NM) of an aerodrome
- Carrying dangerous or hazardous payloads (e.g. chemicals) – Request a copy of Carrying dangerous or hazardous payloads (e.g. chemicals)
After you apply
It may take up to 60 working days to review and issue an SFOC-RPAS for higher-risk operations. Actual processing times can vary depending on the complexity and completeness of the request. Accepted SFOC-RPAS applications will be done in the order received. SFOC-RPAS’s should be issued within the 60-working day window, assuming the applicant responds to additional requests in a timely manner.
Additional processing time may be required by other agencies like the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Program, the Canadian Transportation Agency, and/or the Airspace Navigation Service Provider.
SFOC-RPAS Application received with less then 30 working days advanced notice will not be accepted. If the requested window is longer term (say from today for 1 full year), the SFOC-RPAS application will be accepted.
A regional inspector may contact applicants for additional information during the review process.
Guides and help
- Canadian Aviation Regulations - Part IX
- Advisory Circular (AC) 903-001: RPAS Operational Risk Assessment
- Advisory Circular (AC) 903-002 - Application Guidelines for a SFOC-RPAS
- Transport Canada Aeronautical Information Manual - Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Chapter
Guidance for inspectors
- Staff Instructions (SI) 903-002: Processing of an Application for a SFOC-RPAS
- Internal Process Bulletin (IPB) 2021-03: Supporting Guidance to SI 903-002 – Processing of an Application for a SFOC-RPAS