Flying Like a Pro: Maintaining Safe Drone Practices


Introduction: Slide 1-

Hello everyone, thank you for joining us in our pre-recorded Drone Safety Day webinar series. Drone Safety Day is aimed at promoting safe drone practices and exploring the cool and innovative ways drones are being used across Canada.

My name is Shaheen Chohan, and I am a policy analyst that works on the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems or Drone Task Force at Transport Canada. Transport Canada is the department of the federal government responsible for regulating and developing transportation policies and programs, including those relating to drones. I am joined by Anne-Sophie Riopel-Bouvier with Unmanned Systems Canada, or USC, Canada’s largest drone association.

Good day and thank you Shaheen for the introduction. My name is Anne-Sophie, and I’m a Director and Flight Safety Officer with Unmanned Systems Canada. We are the national industry association representing the growing community of businesses, organizations, educators and enthusiasts in the drone, remotely piloted, unmanned and robotic vehicle systems sector. I am also the co-founder and Vice President of Operations for Quebec-based EXO Tactik Air Support. I was nominated to the Board of Directors of Unmanned Systems Canada in 2018 and helped to launch our national Flight Safety Action Team. I combine my experiences as a Canadian Forces Flight Safety officer, co-founder and VP of Operations with EXO Tactik Air Support, and my background in urban intelligence to support my work at USC.

In this webinar, Anne-Sophie and I will outline the steps to becoming a drone pilot, the rules you must adhere to while flying, and general drone safety tips. Remember – drone safety is everyone’s responsibility, and you should always know before you go!

Agenda: Slide 2- Anne-Sophie:
Here’s what we’ll cover.

Rules and Requirements: Slide 3- Shaheen:
We’ll start with rules and requirements for drones weighing between 250 grams and 25 kilograms. Smaller drones are often called microdrones, and we’ll talk about those later.

Basic vs. Advanced Operations: Slide 4- Anne-Sophie:
There are two categories your drone operation will fall into: basic and advanced. Each one has a different set of rules drone pilots must follow.

The rules for basic operations try to minimize the risk a drone pilot poses to other aircraft and to people. Pilots are required to fly only in uncontrolled airspace, they must keep their drone at least 30 metres from bystanders, and never fly over bystanders, at any height.

If conducting advanced operations, you can fly in controlled airspace, fly closer than 30 metres to bystander, and fly over them.

However, you’ll need a drone with the required Safety Assurance Rating based on how you want to use your drone. We will go into more detail about Safety Assurance Ratings later on.

Basic vs. Advanced Operations part 2: Slide 5- Shaheen:
This infographic, taken from Transport Canada’s Drone Safety website, shows the difference between basic and advanced operations.

Basic operations are defined by flying in uncontrolled airspace, more than 30 meters from bystanders, and never flying over bystanders. If you do not meet any 1 of these 3 conditions, you are conducting advanced operations. For example, let’s say you fly your drone more than 30 metres from bystanders but in controlled airspace. This operation is advanced because you’re flying in controlled airspace even if you’re more than 30 metres from bystanders.

Definitions: Slide 6- Anne-Sophie:
Flying over bystanders is an advanced operation, but you and your crew – if you have one- are not bystanders.

Controlled airspace is where Air Traffic Control (ATC) is provided and is usually near airports and heliports. Uncontrolled airspace is where ATC is not provided and is called Class G airspace.

More Information on Airspace: Slide 7- Shaheen:
Airspace is divided into classes A through G. All classes except G are controlled airspace, and to fly in them you will need an advanced pilot certificate and permission from NAV Canada, the agency that controls Canada’s airspace. We’ll provide more information on getting this permission later in the webinar.

You can fly your drone in Class G uncontrolled airspace with a basic pilot certificate. Our interactive map called the Drone Site Selection Tool, let you find a safe space to fly your drone as well as identify what class of airspace you will be flying in. The image on this slide was taken from the Drone Site Selection Tool. We’ve included the link to the Drone Site Selection Tool, as well as all the other links we will mention in this webinar, on the final slide.

All this to say – airspace is really complicated. Navigating the classes of controlled airspace requires coordination with NAV Canada and additional training, which is why we distinguish between basic and advanced operations.

Basic Operations- Task 1: Slide 8 - Anne-Sophie:

To conduct basic operations with a drone that weighs between 250 grams and 25 kilograms, you first need to register your drone and mark it.

You can register your drone online at through the Drone Management Portal. It costs $5 to register your drone and takes less than 3 minutes.

You will need the following information:

  • The date you purchased your drone
  • And the make, model, serial number, weight and type of drone you have

If you built your drone at home, you can leave these fields empty.

Once you register your drone, you will receive a Certificate of Registration which you can either print or save digitally.

You must mark your drone with your registration number before you fly. You can use a permanent marker, a permanent label, or you can engrave it.

Registering your drone is the law, but it’s also important in other ways. If you lose your drone, registration can help get it returned it to you when it is found. And if there is a recall from the manufacturer, Transport Canada may be able to notify you.

Basic Operations- Task 2: Slide 9- Shaheen:
The next step is to pass the basic exam.

You can take the exam online through the Drone Management Portal at It costs $10 and you will have 90 minutes to complete it. It has 35 multiple choice questions. A score of 65% or higher is considered a pass and you’ll get your results as soon as you complete the exam.

Basic Operations- Task 3: Slide 10- Anne-Sophie:
You’ve registered your drone and obtained a drone pilot certificate. Now you’re ready to fly while adhering to flight safety rules.

To keep yourself and others safe, fly your drone where you can see it, below 400 feet, and away from controlled airspace, airports, bystanders, emergency operations, advertised events (such as concerts or parades), and other aircraft.

And have your registration and pilot certificates on hand, either as print or digital versions, when you’re flying.

Transport Canada can fine you if you do not mark your drone with its registration number or have your registration and pilot certificates on hand when flying. The fines are up to $1,000 for a person and $5,000 for a corporation.

Advanced Operations- Task 1: Slide 11- Shaheen:
Advanced operations have more requirements than basic operations. The first step is to choose the right drone.

Advanced operations pose more of a risk to people and aircraft than basic operations, so you need a drone that meets the RPAS Safety Assurance requirements.

You can find out which drones are eligible for advanced operations on our drone safety website. Meeting the RPAS Safety Assurance for one advanced operation does not make the drone fit for all of them. For example, a drone may be allowed to operate at a horizontal distance less than 30 metres (100 feet) from bystanders but not over them.

Advanced Operations- Task 2: Slide 12- Anne-Sophie:
The next task is to register your drone. The same process applies as with basic operations.

Advanced Operations- Task 3: Slide 13- Shaheen:
Next you need to pass the advanced exam. As with the basic exam, you can take the advanced exam online through the Drone Management Portal at The advanced exam also costs $10 but instead of 90 minutes to complete the exam you have 60 minutes. The exam has 50 multiple choice questions and a score of 80% or higher is considered a pass. As soon as you complete the exam, you’ll get your results and reference number. You will need this number to complete the next step in this process—passing a flight review.

If you fail a basic or advanced exam, you must pay the $10 fee every time you attempt it again. You can re-take an exam as many times as you wish but you must wait 24 hours between attempts.

Advanced Operations- Task 4: Slide 14- Anne-Sophie:
Flight reviewers are Transport Canada-approved drone pilots who can administer a flight review. Every flight reviewer is associated with a self-declared drone flight school.

Contact the drone flight school directly to schedule a flight review. You must provide the school with your registration certificate and proof that you passed the advanced exam.

The flight reviewer will assess your ability to operate your drone safely. You may be charged a fee for your flight review. Prices are set by reviewers and can vary.

Within 24 hours of your flight review, the flight reviewer will submit your results online and you will receive an email confirmation with a link to view your results. If you pass, you can apply for an advanced operations pilot certificate. If you fail, you can schedule another review as early as the next day. There is no limit to the number of times you can retake a flight review, but you may need to pay a fee each time.

You can apply for the advanced operations pilot certificate online. You will be charged a fee of $25. You will then be provided an electronic copy of your Advanced Pilot Certificate.

Advanced Operations- Task 5: Slide 15- Shaheen:
You have registered a drone that has the necessary RPAS Safety Assurance and you’ve obtained your Advanced Operations pilot certificate. Now you’re ready to fly.

Fly your drone where you can see it, below 400 feet, and away from airports, emergency operations, advertised events (such as concerts or parades), and other aircraft.

If you will be flying in controlled airspace, you’ll need permission from Air Traffic Control, or ATC.

Flying in Controlled Airspace: Slide 16- Anne-Sophie:
As we discussed earlier, controlled airspace is managed by ATC. Usually that means NAV Canada, but it may be different near a military base. To fly in controlled airspace, which is Class C, D, or E airspace, you need authorization. If ATC for your given airspace is NAV Canada, you must submit an RPAS Flight Authorization Request.

What Should I Study?: Slide 17- Shaheen:
This slide lists the most important resources to study for your exam.

We strongly recommend that you attend a drone flight school before attempting the advanced exam. The training you’ll get from a drone flight school is specific to how you’ll use your drone. The last slide in this webinar has a link to an online listing of flight schools. It also lists other study materials for both the basic and advanced exams.

Maintaining Your Knowledge: Slide 18- Anne-Sophie:
After you have received either your basic or advanced pilot certificate, you need to keep your skills up to date to remain certified. Every 2 years you’ll need to rewrite the exam, pass a flight review for an advanced certificate, or participate in a safety seminar, drone training program, or self-study program.

Remember, if you let your skills lapse for more than 2 years, you may lose your certification. Just like your registration certificate or pilot certificate, you must keep proof on you that you’ve retained your knowledge whenever you fly.

Other Rules to Keep in Mind: Slide 19- Shaheen:
Based on your flight and the operation you will be conducting, you might have to respect other rules and laws. For example, drone operations are not permitted in national parks and some provincial and municipal parks. We encourage you to read relevant sections of the Criminal code and your province’s laws on trespassing and privacy before you fly for the first time. Some municipalities also have bylaws restricting drone use.

Pre-Flight Procedures: Slide 20- Anne-Sophie:
So that covers most of the rules and requirements flying a drone. Next, we’ll go over procedures you should follow before you take off.

Before You Take Off: Slide 21- Anne-Sophie:
First, find a safe place to fly your drone. Drones share airspace with other drones and aircraft, so use Transport Canada’s Drone Site Selection Tool to ensure you’re flying where its permitted.

Second, consult the Notice to Airmen (NOTAMs) for your flight location. NOTAMs tell pilots about events and obstacles that may affect them. Enter the ID of an aerodrome near you into NAV CANADA’s portal to find NOTAMs in your area.

Third, take note of potentially hazardous obstacles such as buildings and power lines before you fly.

Finally, if you will be flying over private property or near or over buildings, we recommend you get consent from the building owner or occupants.

Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC): Slide 22- Shaheen:
We’ve gone over the rules and requirements you must follow when flying your drone. But what happens when the operation you want to conduct falls outside the normal rules? That’s when you need to obtain a Special Flight Operations Certificate, or SFOC.

When is a SFOC Required?: Slide 23- Shaheen:
You will need to get an SFOC if your drone is heavier than 25 kg, if you want to fly your drone where you can’t see it, if you’re not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, if you want to fly higher than 400 feet, or if you want to fly at an advertised or special event.

You’ll also need a SFOC is you want to fly your drone carrying dangerous or hazardous payloads or if you want to fly close to a military airport.

You can complete an application for an SFOC online and submit it to our Regional Center of Expertise. Apply as soon as possible before you plan to use your drone. If information is missing, your application may take longer to process.

Transport Canada is not currently accepting SFOC applications from foreigners to Canada who want to fly recreationally. This is a temporary restriction and will be re-evaluated in 2021.

All About Microdrones: Slide 24- Anne-Sophie:
Most of what we’ve covered applies to drones weighing between 250 grams and 25 kilograms. But what about drones that weigh less than 250 grams, also known as microdrones?

Microdrone Rules: Slide 25- Anne-Sophie:
Unlike drones that weigh more than 250 grams, microdrones do not need to be registered and you don’t need a drone pilot certificate to operate.

Keep in mind, though, that the maximum take-off weight for microdrone must be less than 250 grams, including the weight of accessories such as lights, cameras, or sensors. So if your drone weighs 249 grams but you add lights that weigh 10 grams, your drone is no longer considered a microdrone. If this happens, you must follow the rules for drones weighing between 250 grams and 25 kilograms, including registering your drone and getting a drone pilot certificate.

Microdrone Flight Safety Tips: Slide 26- Anne-Sophie:
A microdrone is not a toy, and you must never put people or aircraft in danger.

This means staying away emergency sites and restricted airspace (you can use the Drone Site Selection Tool to find out what airspace you can fly in) and following all relevant laws, including those about privacy and trespassing.

And you should fly your drone below 400 feet, where you can see it, and away from advertised events and airports.

Regardless of the size of your drone, whether it weighs more than 250 grams or less, you must always fly safely and take care to avoid endangering people around you or other aircraft.

For Your Information- Slide 27- Shaheen:
In this last section, we’ll look at drone rules for kids, flying at night and indoors, and what it means to be fit to fly.

Drone Rules for Kids- Slide 28- Shaheen:
Drones are a new and exciting technology and can be a great way for kids to learn—as long as they’re keeping it safe by following the rules.

Children need to be 14 years old to get a basic licence and 16 years old to get an advanced licence. Children younger than 14 or 16 can still operate a drone, but only when they’re supervised by someone with a licence. This means that as a parent you must possess either a basic or advanced pilot certificate yourself.

This requirement does not apply to microdrones. However, we recommend educating your children on safe drone practices and supervising them when they are using their drone.

Indoor and Night Operations- Slide 29- Anne-Sophie:
Part IX of the Canadian Aviation Regulations only applies to outdoor drone operations and does not apply if flying a drone indoors or underground. When you fly indoors, though, you should get permission from the building owner or occupants and respect all other laws and rules to ensure you don’t put anyone in danger.

You can fly your drone at night if your drone has position lights.

Being Fit to Fly- Slide 30- Anne-Sophie:
A final note. To operate your drone safely, you must be fit to fly. That means not flying if you’re extremely tired, under the influence of alcohol or taking an impairing drug. Make sure you have not had a drink at for at least 12 hours before operating your drone, or consumed cannabis in the previous 28 days. If your physical and mental capacities are impaired, you can’t react quickly to avoid accidents or collisions.

Questions- Slide 31- Shaheen:
So that’s it for safe drone practices, tips, rules and requirements. We hope you found this webinar helpful. Fly safe, and have fun!

The next webinars in our Drone Safety Day pre-recorded webinar series will explore the cool and innovative ways drones are being used across Canada. Be sure to check them out as well!

Got questions about safe drone operations, or something you may have seen or heard during our webinars? Tune in to Transport Canada’s Twitter Chat, to be held on November 13th at 1 pm. We will have a group of Drone Experts available on hand to answer any burning questions you may have, live.

Drone safety is everyone’s responsibility. To celebrate Drone Safety Day, tell us what drone safety means to you. Share a photo, post, or story to your social media platforms with the hashtag drone safety day. And check out Transport Canada’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see what drone safety means to other Canadians!