How to identify Airspace for Drone operations
There are many resources available out there to help you identify what airspace you are flying in and what you need to know about it before you start to fly your drone. The Canadian Drone Site Selection tool offers a great free resource to supplement your aviation maps:
Under the RPAS Basic Operations certification, you can only fly in uncontrolled airspace. For example, you can not operate your drone under the Basic certificate in Vancouver as it is under controlled airspace as highlighted in red. Basic pilots can fly their drones outside of these zones, provided that they follow the rules and regulations under the Basic umbrella including, keeping a 100 feet horizontal distance from bystanders in addition to other conditions.
With an Advanced Pilot certificate, you can fly in controlled airspace provided that you have approval from Nav Canada. Advanced Pilots can seek pre-approval through the Nav Canada RPAS portal, which involves filling out the form with your operational details and waiting approximately 24-48 hours for approval depending on the complexity of your operation.
How to read VTA Aviation Charts
We recommend Drone operators utilize official Nav Canada VTA charts for their regions. Advanced RPAS pilots should be able to read and understand these aviation charts to identify what type of airspace they are flying in. These charts provide detailed information:
*The following charts are property of Nav Canada and are used as an example only. Please note that Navigation charts from Nav Canada have an “effective” expiry date for a period in which they are valid. Please purchase the latest versions from Nav Canada.
Here is an example of controlled airspace in the Vancouver area. The radius indicates a control zone of YVR. The airspace ceiling indicates from SFC abbreviation (Surface) to 25 (2,500 feet) is class C airspace, above 2,500 feet to 12,500 feet is also class C airspace. Drone pilots flying in this area must be Advanced pilots with authorization from Nav Canada.
Be aware that airspace can change with altitude. Despite the airspace showing as class G (the airspace indicator does not state from Surface (SFC) in the site selection tool, the airspace changes into controlled airspace above 1200 feet as indicated (ABV = ABOVE 12(00)’ to 25(00)’ and beyond = class C) in the chart below. While you can’t fly above 400 feet without an SFOC, in the event of a vertical fly-away you must understand that your aircraft could potentially breach this altitude and enter into controlled airspace. In this situation, advanced pilots should have emergency procedures in place to contact the appropriate authorities (and no, calling 911 is not the solution unless there is an immediate danger).