Canada Quietly Loosening Drone Rules

Drone operators everywhere took note of Canada’s harsh new ‘interim’ drone regulations back in March that turned most of the country into a no-fly-zone.

The rules, introduced by former astronaut and Transport Minister Marc Garneau, were intended to better secure the airspace until consultation and development of a new set of regulations could be formulated later this year.

The ‘Interim Order’ that faciliates the temporary rules expires about every 2 weeks and is replaced with an indentical or similar order.  We’ve been tracking some of the evolving changes to the interim order that show some loosening of the restrictions for pilots.

No fly zones around Toronto with March rules tightening

Back in March 2017, the original order (which refers to drones as ‘model aircraft’) had the following restrictions:

A person must not operate a model aircraft

  1. at an altitude greater than 300 feet AGL;
  2. at a lateral distance of less than 250 feet (75m) from buildings, structures, vehicles, vessels, animals and the public including spectators, bystanders or any person not associated with the operation of the aircraft;
  3. within 9km of the centre of an aerodrome;
  4. within controlled airspace;
  5. within restricted airspace;
  6. over or within a forest fire area, or any area that is located within 9 km of a forest fire area;
  7. over or within the security perimeter of a police or first responder emergency operation site;
  8. over or within an open-air assembly of persons;
  9. at night; or
  10. in cloud.

Additional rules requiring operation within 500m or less Visual Line of Site (VLOS) at all times and that the drone owners contact info must be on the drone.

Since the original ‘Interim Order’, there have been 6 renewals of the order, but the rules within the order have remained unchanged until this month.


[turbo_widget widget-prefix=text&obj-class=WP_Widget_Text&widget-text–title=&widget-text–text=%3Ca+href%3D%22http%3A%2F%2Fclick.dji.com%2FAECfzjlyNneFq6zv9Kk%3Fpm%3Dad_image%22+target%3D_blank%3E%3Cimg+src%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Fu.djicdn.com%2Fuploads%2Fad_image_file%2Ffile%2F179%2F480x70.png%22%3E%3C%2Fa%3E&widget-text–filter=false]


The most recent renewal of the order has dropped or modified 3 provisions listed above. Items with a line through them have been either deleted or modified in the new Order.

A person must not operate a model aircraft

  1. at an altitude greater than 300 feet AGL;
  2. at a lateral distance of less than 250 feet (75m) from buildings, structures, vehicles, vessels, animals and the public including spectators, bystanders or any person not associated with the operation of the aircraft;Modified-see below
  3. within 9km of the centre of an aerodrome;Modified-see below
  4. within controlled airspace;
  5. within restricted airspace;
  6. over or within a forest fire area, or any area that is located within 9 km of a forest fire area;Modified-see below
  7. over or within the security perimeter of a police or first responder emergency operation site;
  8. over or within an open-air assembly of persons;
  9. at night; or
  10. in cloud.

The first modified point, regarding lateral distances from buildings etc. has the most changes.  There is no longer any reference to ‘buildings, structures’ in point 2 of the Order, as Transport Canada now segregates distance based on aircraft weight.  Aircraft weighing between 250g and 1kg must maintain a lateral distance of at least 30m from vehicles, vessels or the public, including spectators bystanders or any person not associated with the operation of the aircraft.

DJI’s popular new Spark drone, which has a takeoff weight of 300g  and the Mavic Pro, with it’s takeoff weight of 734g are the only DJI products to enjoy the new reduced minimum distance rule.


[turbo_widget widget-prefix=text&obj-class=WP_Widget_Text&widget-text–title=&widget-text–text=%3Ca+href%3D%22http%3A%2F%2Fclick.dji.com%2FAAuv-PbbBrx8X9pdmSQN%3Fpm%3Dad_image%22+target%3D_blank%3E%3Cimg+src%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Fu.djicdn.com%2Fuploads%2Fad_image_file%2Ffile%2F504%2F468x60.jpg%22%3E%3C%2Fa%3E&widget-text–filter=false]


DJI’s larger drones like the Phantom Series, Inspire, and others all weigh greater than 1kg. For drones over 1kg but less than 35kg the minimum distance is still 75m.

Item 3 prohibiting flights within 9km of any aerodrome has been significantly relaxed.  Aerodromes that are exclusively used by helicopters are now protected by a reduced 1 nautical mile (1.8km) restriction.  While traditional aerodromes have reduced the no-fly-zone to 3 nautical miles (5.5km).

At my own home, situated in the middle of a 100 acre parcel, I was prohibited from flying on my property under the original order due to a hospital Helipad about 5 km away and a regional airport 8km away. Under the new Interim Order I’m good to fly on my own property.

Lastly, the language in point 6 regarding flights near forest fires has been modified to ‘over or within an area of natural hazard or disaster; or any area that is located within 9 km of an area of natural hazard or disaster.’

These changes are significant for Canadian drone pilots, due primarily to the relaxation of the areas around helipads and true airports.

Before flying we recommend you contact Transport Canada to confirm the most up to date version of the rules in force.

We’ll keep an eye on the evolving changes and keep you up to date.

%d bloggers like this: