The Canadian Government defines drones / UAVs as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). There are three categories of drone pilots in Canada, which is determined primarily by the airspace and the horizontal distance from people you want to fly within. How do I know what airspace I’m flying? You can find which airspace you’re flying in through this free tool from the Canadian Drone Site Selection tool.
How to get your RPAS pilot certificate?
DISCLAIMER: We have provided a simple summary here, but please note that there are some other restrictions as specified in the Canadian Aviation Regulations which can be learned when pursuing your certification.
Basic Operations: Any drone pilot looking to fly a drone weighing above 250 grams is required to register their drones and complete the Transport Canada - Basic Pilot certification. Under this category, flying your drone is restrictive. For example, you can not fly in controlled airspace, which essentially means can't fly anywhere in the Greater Vancouver area or most urban areas as it is likely under controlled airspace. Additionally, you must keep your drone at least 30 meters horizontally away from people and never fly over people. Any drone operator looking to use their drone for work or commercial purposes should consider pursuing the Advanced Certificate.
Advanced Operations: this is considered the full certification that offers the most flexibility for drone operators. Under the Advanced certification, pilots can operate drones in controlled airspace and within 30 meters of people (assuming your aircraft meets the RPAS safety assurance). This is with the proper authorization which is has been streamlined by NAVCanada. The majority of people looking to use drones for work or commercial purposes pursue this certification. How to get your Advanced certificate?
Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC): the majority of inquiries we get for SFOC are from foreign operators. People who are non-residents of Canada are required to apply for this certificate. Along with any other anomalies like if you plan to fly a drone weighing over 25kg, at a public event, over 400 feet, beyond visual line-of-sight, etc.
- Microdrones (Drones weighing under 250 grams): if you fly a drone like the Mavic Mini you do not need a certificate or register your aircraft to fly. However, you must fly safely.