March 26, 2023

Canada has issued a new interim drone law, relaxing regulations for recreational users.

The new law removes the restriction against flying within 75 meters of buildings, something that drone enthusiasts pointed out practically eliminated all flight within cities and heavily settled areas.  The new regulation states that drones must be operated at least 30 m away from “vehicles, vessels, and the public” if your drone weighs between 250 grams and 1 kg, and at least 75 m away from vehicles, vessels, and the public with a drone weighing between 1kg and 35 kg.

The change in wording from “buildings, vehicles or people” to “vehicles, vessels and the public” represents a significant change in the rule, as does the addition of a size-based category in the rule.

The new rule also changes the distance that drones must stay away from an airport or heliport.  While the previous law prohibited flight within 9km of any airport or heliport, the new law restricts flight within 5.5 km from aerodromes (defined as “any airport, seaplane base, or areas where aircraft take-off and land”) and within 1.8 km of heliports or aerodromes used exclusively by helicopters “outside of controlled or restricted airspace” such as a helipad on the roof of a hospital.

Full details of Canada’s drone laws can be found here.

The new interim rule represents a welcome change for drone operators, who were taken by surprise when Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced the original interim rule in March.   Garneau’s announcement was a reaction to an increase in drone sightings near airports and was made effective immediately upon the announcement.

Since then, drone advocacy groups such as NODE (the Network of Drone Enthusiasts) have been responsible for an organized effort to get the law changed: over 2000 Canadian drone operators lobbied lawmakers to encourage greater flexibility.