A balanced flight: How the new regulations effect recreational drone users

Jason Manaois & Sean Murphy / February 21, 2019

A BCIT Drone demonstrating it’s ability to capture aerial footage.
(Sean Murphy / BCIT News)

Drones have been on a steady rise in the past few years. In terms of recreational use, commercial UAVs have been gaining more popularity due to the vast opportunities and uses it can provide. From taking stellar footage, to analyzing landscapes, and even news reporting, drones can let viewers see different angles of objects and landscapes that the average eye wouldn’t be able to see. However, it does present the question: Are drones safe? and if they’re not, how do we make them safe?

Transport Canada’s answer. New regulations that will come into effect by June 1, 2019.  These new regulations are put in place to make drones safer, but according to  Model Aeronautics Association of Canada(MAAC) member and BCIT researcher Eric Saczuk, it’s not for all drone pilots.

“Now suddenly you’re brought into basic rules, and that actually puts quite a bit of restriction on the hobbyists in terms of their flying. They have to register their aircraft, and take this online exam, a lot of that information has nothing to do with what they do.”

Eric SaczukBCIT Researcherhttps://

The new regulations

Below are the new regulations enforced by Transport Canada.

Legal requirements when flying drones

Drone pilots must follow the rules in the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs). Part IX – Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems contains most of the rules that apply to drones. You should read these regulations in full before you fly your drone for the first time.

Drone pilots must carry a valid drone pilot certificate and only fly drones that are marked and registered.

Respect all other laws

You must respect all other laws when flying your drone. We encourage you to read the following documents before you fly for the first time:

You must respect the privacy rights of others when you fly.

We investigate reports of unsafe flying. We may involve local police if you break other laws.


Fly your drone safely

It’s important that you fly your drone responsibly to avoid harming others. Here are the rules you need to follow.

Before you fly

  1. Understand your legal requirements when flying drones
  2. Understand the difference between basic and advanced operations
  3. Get the necessary knowledge requirements
  4. Get a drone pilot certificate
  5. Choose the right drone if you want to perform advanced operations
  6. Register your drone
  7. Follow your drone manufacturer’s instructions
  8. Survey the area where you will fly
    • Take note of any obstacles, such as buildings and power lines

While flying

To keep yourself and others safe, fly your drone:

  • where you can see it at all times
  • below 122 metres (400 feet) in the air
  • away from bystanders, at a minimum distance of 30 metres for basic operations
  • away from emergency operations and advertised events
    • Avoid forest fires, outdoor concerts and parades
  • away from airports and heliports
    • 5.6 kilometres (3 nautical miles) from airports
    • 1.9 kilometres (1 nautical mile) from heliports
  • far away from other aircraft
    • Don’t fly anywhere near airplanes, helicopters and other drones

Always respect the privacy of others while flying.


Fines for individuals

  • up to $1,000 for flying without a drone pilot certificate
  • up to $1,000 for flying unregistered or unmarked drones
  • up to $1,000 for flying where you are not allowed
  • up to $3,000 for putting aircraft and people at risk

Fines for corporations

  • up to $5,000 for flying without a drone pilot certificate
  • up to $5,000 for flying unregistered or unmarked drones
  • up to $5,000 for flying where you are not allowed
  • up to $15,000 for putting aircraft and people at risk

If you break more than one rule, you could receive multiple penalties.

Transport Canada and MAAC

The new regulations create a new legal framework; rules while flying , and the consequences of breaking those rules. Former MAAC president and current chairman of the Transport Canada Advisory Committee Rodger Williams, says operating a drone under the new system means users will now need a “mini-pilots license.” According to the chairman drone pilots can bypass the process by joining MAAC.

“It will not provide an issue to recreational drone users if they are a member of MAAC. Because MAAC is a group that will be exempt from all the new rules and regulations. However, the new members will have to abide with the new rules of MAAC.” Rodger Williams, Chairman of Transport Canada advisory committee


Outlined in red in the map below are areas Transport Canada says you cannot fly your drones without going through their regulation process or joining MAAC.